Monday June 14th, 2004
Skies over Orlando, Florida
“Girl you need to seriously calm down,” Sara laughed
as she looked at her friend as she nearly bounced in the seat next to her.
“She's right Jen, you're more excited than the six-year-old in economy who has been running up and down the aisle singing the Mickey Mouse Club theme,” Zoey giggled as she looked over her seat back at her two favorite security agents.
“Well, she did encourage the boy, singing along with him,” Jed Bartlet laughed before the others in first class joined him.
“I can’t help it,” whined Jen with a pout before sticking her tongue out at Zoey.
“Our Cinderella is going home,” Abbey chuckled as Sara just shook her head.
“Honestly people, what is the big thing about Disney World? It's an amusement park for kids right?” Sara asked shaking her head before ducking as every member of the Bartlet family, Charlie, the other agents assigned to guard the ex-Presidential family while on their family vacation and most importantly Jen turned to stare at her in disbelief. “Okay...shutting up now.”
“That’s it. We’re dragging this poor uninitiated girl to the Magic Kingdom first thing after we check in and getting her into the whole ‘big thing about Disney World,” commented Jen.
“Should I be afraid?” Sara asked concerned as she glanced at the others in first class.
“Be very afraid, in case you hadn't noticed, Jen is the resident child from another life of Walt Disney,” Zoey giggled.
“Oh trust me, I've noticed,” Sara laughed as Jen rolled her eyes over their comments.
“Final descent, thank God,” Charlie chuckled as they came that much closer to getting off the plane and heading towards the hotel.
“Nothing personal Mr. President, but working any kind of Presidential detail can be hell on a person, add to that I’m a military brat who’s married to another military brat who spends at least half the year on the other side of the world, a girl needs some sort of escape and I choose Disney,” commented Jen.
“Trust me Jennifer, I'm not complaining. We just love teasing you, that's all,” Jed smiled.
“You people are so mean to me,” pouted Jen as she turned to look out the window.
Shaking her head, Sara nudged Jen and they snapped to attention so to speak as Ron conversed with the flight attendants as they taxied to the gate. As soon as the doors were opened, Ron and another agent were out and heading to make sure the gate was secured before the family followed, Sara and Jen pulling up the rear as the agents spread out to form a circle. After reaching baggage claim, they were on their way to waiting limos and thirty minutes later found themselves at the Walt Disney World Resort Complex, the Grand Floridian Hotel in particular where another detail of agents was waiting, having already secured their rooms.
Half-an-hour later Sara and Jen escorted Zoey and Charlie down to the Grand Floridian Cafe where the Bartlet's were planning to enjoy lunch.
“You know, Abbey and I got to thinking,” Jed began as Zoey and Charlie took seats at the table, Jen and Sara taking up positions next to it, “Take a seat ladies,” he said indicating the two empty seats still at the table.
Sharing a confused look between them, Jen and Sara did as ordered and sat down at the table.
“As I was saying,” Jed continued when the girls had sat down. “Abbey and I got to thinking the other day about how God has blessed our family. He blessed us with three beautiful daughters,” he nodded at Liz, Ellie and Zoey, “a wonderful son-in-law,” he continued smiling towards Vic…no one really talked about Doug much since the divorce, even his children didn’t have much to do with him considering the reason for the divorce was his affair… “and three beautiful grandchildren. But God has also been kind enough to bless us with two additional daughters. Granted they aren’t ours by blood, but they are very dear to the both of us. Gina, Jen, we would like the two of you to join us as family on this vacation and leave work behind for the week.”
“Umm...Sir?” Sara asked sharing another confused look with Jen.
“As of this moment on, the two of you are now officially ‘on vacation’,” Abbey told them. “And to make sure the two of you don’t try get out of enjoying yourselves, Jed and I have arranged a special surprise for the two of you. Turn around ladies.”
“Sir?” asked Jen uncertainly.
“Jennifer Jacqueline Garrison and Virginia Lynn Toscano, would the two of you just do as you’re told for once,” ordered Jed.
Jen and Sara looked at each other before finally turning around only to find Michael and John standing behind them, Michael being escorted by Cinderella and Mickey Mouse and John escorted by Jasmine and Eeyore.
“Michael?” asked Jen in confusion as she made her way over to him. “What? How?”
“You can thank the man seated at the table behind you,” laughed Michael. “And our escorts of course.”
“She’s speechless,” commented Charlie. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen that girl speechless before.”
“That makes two of us,” Sara smiled before launching herself at John who wrapped his arms around her.
“Thank you Sir,” Sara continued a moment later when she let go of John and turned to face the family, smiling from ear to ear.
“Yes, thank you, Sir,” Jen said. “Okay, who here at this table has a camera because I am not letting this photo op go by without getting my picture taken with my favorite princess and the mouse that started it all.” Everyone laughed and Michael produced the camera he had been expecting his wife to ask for.
“Oh we're all getting our pictures taken my dear, that's what the lovely woman who came with these six is for,” Jed smiled nodding towards the woman behind the group. A Disney employee with a camera and a smile.
Once all the pictures were taken and lunch was complete, everyone made their way through the hotel to the monorail and a quick trip to the gates of the Magic Kingdom.
“So where to first?” Abbey asked with a smile as they looked around Main Street U.S. A.
“Getting rid of this damn wheel chair,” Jed spoke up immediately as he shifted once more.
“Daddy, you agreed to not fight us on this. We don't want you wearing yourself out walking all over this place. If all of us could get away with it, we'd be using wheel chairs too you know,” Zoey argued.
“Well, first stop for me is one of these nice cast members taking pictures of people in front of Cinderella Castle,” commented Jen as she pulled Michael off down the street.
“Well, that would be the first stop for all of us it would appear,” Ellie grinned before the group made their way towards other cast members. Pictures being taken of Jed, Abbey and their daughters; a full family picture; one of just the Westins; one of Ellie, her new husband Vic and three-month-old baby girl Erin; one of just the three sisters; and one of Zoey and Charlie. John and Sara as well had pictures taken, before getting a set with Jen and Michael. Then the two ladies were dragged into a picture with Zoey, before being dragged into one with Zoey, Jed, and Abbey. After the final pictures were taken Jed returned reluctantly to his chair.
“I can't believe you dragged us into a picture, Sir,” Sara laughed as she took the picture card from the cast member who had taken all of their pictures.
“Alright ladies, let me make something perfectly clear,” Jed began giving both Sara and Jen a glare that had often sent his staff in the West Wing running to do what he wanted. “It's Jed, not 'sir', Jed.”
“But Sir, it just wouldn’t be proper,” Jen tried to argue.
“I don't give a damn about what is proper and what isn't.” Jed countered, “But, if you want to make a concession, you call me by my given name here, and none of us present, including other agents, will ever tell. Then when this vacation is over you can go back to the whole 'Sir' business. At least until I manage to convince you two to make it a more permanent thing.”
“And if we don’t?” asked Jen curiously.
“Well, I may be forced to take away your park tickets then Mrs. Garrison,” Jed countered with a smirk.
Jen stood there in shock for a moment, her mouth hanging open. “DEAL!”
“I've never seen her agree to something so fast in her life,” John laughed.
“I know, good going S...Jed,” Sara corrected with a smile.
“Oh, you are both so dead,” commented Jen. “One of you gets thrown to the Pirates of the Caribbean and one becomes the newest resident of The Haunted Mansion.”
“Something tells me given the option I want the Haunted Mansion, I'm much better with the dead than the living, especially if technicallythey would be criminals,” Sara smirked.
“That’s it. You’re toast,” commented Jen as she started after Sara, who immediately began running off towards Adventureland, Jen hot on her heels.
“Uh, Jen does know that The Haunted Mansion is that way, right?” asked Michael as he pointed off towards Liberty Square.
“Something tells me she intends to dump Gina at the one she didn't want to be at,” Charlie laughed.
Eventually the group caught up with the two women, as Jen had Sara cornered up in the Swiss Family Robinson Tree House, threatening to throw her into the river with the gators. To which Sara merely laughed and pointed out all the witnesses who would tell her brother on her.
After they got the two laughing women down, and managed to convince everyone there to leave the ex-President and First Lady alone, the group continued on their way around the park, riding everything from Snow White to Space Mountain, Splash Mountain to the Haunted Mansion, which Sara quickly declared she preferred over Pirates of the Caribbean.
After dinner spent at the Liberty Tree Tavern, and plenty of pictures being taken with the characters there, the group returned to the hotel, only to split up and head in various directions. The family headed to see the Cirque de Soliel show, while Jen, Michael, John, and Sara headed over to check out the shops in Downtown Disney.
“All right Jen, you’ve been in here long enough,” commented Michael as he took Jen by the hand and tried to lead her from the store.
“But I’m not finished looking around yet,” whined Jen as she planted her feet firmly on the floor, refusing to move a muscle.
“And how much have you bought already?” countered Michael.
“Exactly,” replied Michael as he tried again to get Jen to leave.
“I’m not done!” argued Jen.
“Yes, Jen you are, at least for now,” countered Michael as he picked Jen up, tossing her over his shoulder and carrying her from the Disney Days of Christmas store out to where Sara and John were waiting.
“Oh my God, it is a miracle,” Sara laughed. “He got her out of there,” she continued with a grin.
“Oh stuff it,” grumbled Jen when Michael finally put her down next to Sara.
“Really now, while you were in there, we managed to hit half a dozen other stores waiting for you,” John teased.
“Your point being?” countered Jen.
“You're obsessed,” Sara smirked. “So we raided Disney Tails and now have enough stuff to turn Alicia and Thomas into Disney people, or at least their dogs.”
“Yeah well, just you all wait until Christmas,” sniffed Jen indignantly.
“Fair enough,” Sara shrugged, “Now come on, I want to check out the Pooh store. I have this new fascination with Eeyore.”
“I think we created a monster, Jen,” John laughed as Sara began pulling them towards the store.
“Hey, don't look at her, you're the one who bought her that Indiana Jones Eeyore when you found out it was one of the books she read as a child and her favorite character,” Michael countered.
“And you call me obsessed,” commented Jen rolling her eyes.
“Hey, I'm new to this. I have years of catch-up until I'm to the same level as you,” Sara countered.
“Semantics,” argued Jen.
“Tomato, Tomato.” Sara countered using both pronunciations of the word. “Okay now, I want ice cream. I vote for Ghirardelli. Closest I can get to getting you three to Ghirardelli Square,” she continued with a grin.
“If they’ve got chocolate, I’m in,” agreed Jen.
“Oh, they have chocolate,” Sara laughed before the group made their way to the shop. “Domingo my old friend, here I come,” she continued rubbing her hands together.
“Girl, you've never been to this place before and you know what's on the menu?” Michael glanced over at her.
“Boy, this is Ghirardelli. It was my second home when I was living in Frisco. The Domingo is the best hot fudge sundae there is. Oh and of course you have to have a chocolate malt with it,” Sara groaned. “That's it, walk faster. I haven't had a date with Domingo in over three years.”
“I'm starting to fear I might be replaced,” John laughed as they chased after her.
“Ehh, Domingo knows he comes first in my life, he don't care,” Sara grinned before entering the Shop. Taking a deep breath she smiled, “God, I've missed this smell.”
“The smell of enough sugar to give the entire population of New York City cavities?” John countered before dodging as she reached out to smack him.
“For that you are so buying, babe,” Sara smirked.
A few minutes later found the four seated around a table outside with their ice cream. Sara of course had her Domingo and a Chocolate Malt, which had John and Michael at least shaking their heads as they watched her eat the sundae consisting of vanilla ice cream, hot fudge, sliced bananas, whip cream, almonds and cherries. Then to top it off with a chocolate malt...well, they mutually decided not to deny that woman chocolate any more than they ever denied Jen, who was enjoying a Warm Brownie Sundae.
After their ice cream, the group finally headed back to the hotel, splitting up to go to the two rooms that the guys had checked into the night before. The next day, everyone, Presidential family, Secret Service, and the two couples, went to the Animal Kingdom. After doing everything from seeing what it's like to be a Bug, to going on a Safari, and from taking a trip back in time to see the Dinosaurs to seeing Tarzan in person, they left the park for the day, after one last trip on the River Rapids where Sara and Jen somehow ended up soaked, while Michael and John who were in the seats on either side of them remained relatively dry.
Tuesday June 21st,
Victoria and Albert's Restaurant
The next six days past relatively
quickly for those on vacation. They visited every park, hit the water parks,
and even visited a few other parks in Orlando, Sea World, Universal Studios,
the Islands of Adventure, Cypress Gardens, and even some of the dinner shows in
town, Arabian Nights and Medieval Times being the favorite of the two women on
a forced vacation.
That morning, Sara had woken to find John gone, and a single sterling silver rose on the pillow. Not long after Jen had joined her, and both women had received with their breakfast in the room, invitations for that night. Sara’s to join John for dinner at Victoria and Albert’s, Jen to join Michael at the California Grill. From that point on, they’d had a nice relaxing day, hitting the spa, only to be joined by Zoey, Abbey, Liz and Ellie, attack of the Bartlet women as Zoey declared it The men were sent off to get lost and take care of the children; at least that was what Abbey had said. After they finally left the spa, the four Bartlet women had shared rather evil looking grins before pulling Sara and Jen out to an awaiting vehicle where they’d then gone to the Florida Mall there in Orlando.
After a few hours spent shopping, they’d gone back to the hotel, only to be pulled back to Zoey’s room where they were pampered even more by the four women. By the time eight rolled around, both women were dressed to impress. Jen in a pant-suit that was feminine enough to look like she was going out for a night on the town, yet comfortable enough in case they decided to do some walking around the parks, which knowing Jen would no doubt happen. Sara meanwhile was dressed in a dress she’d never even have thought to buy before, it was various shades of blue silk chiffon, strapless with shimmering beads and sequins – with an angled hemline so that it rested just at her left knee, and ended almost at her right ankle. Open-toe silver satin pumps gave her an extra three-and-a-half inches of height, bringing her that much closer to John’s height. Her now red hair, well more of a dark strawberry blonde then red, had been pulled up into a French twist, which was decorated with a few small blue silver stones, and Jen had loaned her a simple silver chain to wear around her neck.
Eight on the dot found the two on an elevator going down to the lobby, where Michael and John were waiting, Michael with a single red rose for Jen, before he quickly whisked her away. John on the other hand had a single white rosebud that he slipped into Sara’s hair before they made their way to the restaurant.
There they had been greeted with their own waiter, Albert, and hostess, Victoria, before being led to their table. Sara had been surprised to find her name on the black menu jacket in gold ink, and thrilled to find the single long-stem rose she’d been given by Albert. For the next two hours they talked about everything under the sun, simply enjoying being together as they were presented with eight courses, each having its own wine accompaniment.
It was while having the Green Apple Baba with Sour Cream Glace that Albert had arrived with a bouquet of Sterling Silver Roses and the Harpist that had been playing all night changed songs, one that she found familiar though she couldn’t place where from. When she looked up from where she had been holding the roses and softly rubbing one of the petals, her favorite roses having always been Sterling Silver, Sara was floored to find John just there. Kneeling on the floor next to her chair.
“John?” she asked before glancing around quickly.
“I know it’s only been six months since we met, but if there is one thing I’ve learned in this life, it’s that you need to take what you’re given, and don’t wait forever. I love you Virginia Lynn Toscano…more than I’ve ever loved anyone before and I know in my heart I’ll never love anyone more. Marry me Gina, please say you’ll be my wife,” he finished as he produced a small box and opened it. Inside was a yellow-gold ring, a marquise-diamond in the center with ten round-diamonds in a channel setting, five on each side.
“I… I…” Sara began in shock before looking from the ring to his hopeful expression. “Oh God, John…” she whispered before glancing around the room once more. “John I… I can’t,” she finally answered as she watched the shock enter his eyes. “I’m so sorry…so very sorry…” she continued before making her escape.
She wasn’t sure how she made it from the restaurant to their hotel room without running into anyone; then again she could have for all she knew. When there was a knock on the door, she was terrified it was John, and nearly cried in relief when she saw it was only Abbey Bartlet. Though considering she was already crying she could have for all she’d known. For a moment she had debated not opening the door, until her brain kicked in and she realized something could have happened in relation to work. But when she opened the door, Abbey didn’t say anything, just held up a tissue and asked if she was okay…which started another round of tears.
A few minutes later, she found herself in another hotel room, the ex-First Lady with her before they were joined by the eldest Bartlet daughter, Liz, who had quickly and efficiently packed her belongings. They had left soon after, after she asked them to go, neither woman looking like they really wanted to leave her. But they had, after promising to not tell anyone where she was.
Once they were gone, Sara stripped out of the dress, throwing it into the closet so she wouldn’t have to see it again, the white rose from her hair following it… After that she just crawled onto the bed and wrapped herself around a pillow, crying for everything she’d lost, and everything she knew she could never have.
Wednesday June 22nd,
Grand Floridian Hotel
“Uh Jen?” Michael said putting his
hand out to stop Jen as they made their way along the hotel corridor.
Jen looked up at Michael before looking at what had his attention. “Oh no, John!” she cried quietly, not wanting to wake up any of the other guests as she crouched down next to her brother. “John what happened?”
“She said no,” he whispered before looking up at her. “She's gone; everything's gone from the hotel room...why did she say no?”
“Oh John,” sighed Jen sadly looking up at Michael before turning back to her brother. “I don’t know John. I just don’t know.”
“Come on buddy, let’s get you up,” Michael said as he crouched down and helped John back to his feet.
Once John was on his feet, supported by Michael the three made their way into Jen and Michael’s room, getting John settled in the second bed in the room before Jen and Michael climbed into their own bed.
Saturday June 25th,
Grand Floridian Hotel
The next three days were a blur
really, John had requested to be returned to ship early, and Michael had
decided to go with him, much to Jen's dismay. Jed didn't immediately approve
the request, telling them to at least stay through the weekend. As a result,
John spent most of his time in his room, packing. Other than when Jen and
Michael would come and drag him out to eat.
Sara meanwhile had been seen only once, by Zoey and Abbey when they tried to get her to eat. Jen hadn't seen her, though that was partially her own doing, not wanting to be alone with the woman...she was so angry; that she felt it better they remain apart. Finally though, she'd reached the point where she had to see Sara, find out why, for John and herself.
She still didn't know where Sara was, so she followed Zoey the night before when she'd gone to see her, well Zoey hadn't exactly seen her, more begged through the door for Sara to eat something before leaving. With that information, she knew exactly where to go the next morning, and knocked twice on the door before waiting.
“Go away Zoey, I'm fine,” Sara called through the door.
“It’s not Zoey and I’m not going anywhere,” countered Jen through the door. “Now open the door Gina.”
On the other side of the door Sara sighed before dropping the shirt she'd been folding. Turning she walked over to the door, before opening it. “Jen...”
“I can’t believe you did this!” snapped Jen as she pushed past Sara and into the room. “Even after I warned you about this. Do you have any idea what you’ve done to my brother?” she demanded as she spun to face Sara.
“I have a pretty good idea,” Sara answered softly before walking back to her packing. “Look, I know you hate me now, but what I'm doing is really for the best. Don't worry; I'll be gone by the time you guys get back. I've already told Zoey I'm leaving, recommended you for lead,” she paused to look up at Jen. “I'll be gone within the week, and John can heal and find someone else who deserves him.”
“I don’t hate you Gina,” sighed Jen. “I want to beat the crap out of you right now, but I don’t hate you. I realize you must have your reasons for turning John down but you also need to know that you’ve basically destroyed my family. John is barely functioning, let alone eating and he and Michael are heading back to the ship as soon at President Bartlett gives his okay. Because of you my time with my husband and brother is being cut short.”
“I'm sorry for that,” Sara countered softly. “You'll never know how much. Look, I'm leaving this afternoon. But for now I'm going to leave, I'll be back in an hour or so...so you can go ahead and take anything you want, anything that you gave me...if you want to. I'd understand if you did,” Sara shrugged slightly before grabbing her sunglasses. “Goodbye Jennifer,” she continued before leaving the room before Jen could even reply.
Frowning Jen followed after her, catching up with her outside the hotel just as she boarded one of the buses. Shaking her head she made her way back upstairs, a bit surprised to run into her brother actually out of his room.
Saturday June 25th,
Disney’s Animal Kingdom
She was sitting at the Tiger area in Animal
Kingdom, sitting on the small stone insets to the glass window that let people
see into the Tiger ‘room’. The Jasmine sunglasses she’d picked up the same day
Jen found a set with Cinderella covered her eyes, a bottle of water in her
hands as she simply watched the tigers.
“Had a feeling I’d find you here.”
Closing her eyes Sara took a deep breath before opening her eyes and looking up slightly to see John standing there watching her. “How’d you find me?”
“Jen saw you board the bus bound for Animal Kingdom, didn’t take long to realize you’d be here. Seeing as this was your favorite place in the park.”
“I see,” she nodded slightly, “Why?”
“We need to talk…I need to know why,” John countered evenly.
Sara glanced around the area, seeing the children and families… “Not here.”
“Come on,” John nodded and she sighed before rising and following him from the park. Fifteen minutes later they were in the room they’d shared for a week. She took a seat on the bed, sitting cross-legged, before pushing her glasses up on her head.
“Why Gina, why didn’t you just ask for more time? I would have understood that…but this…”
“Because you deserve better than me.”
“How can I find better than you, damn it Gina, I love you. I thought you loved me too…” John trailed off with a heavy sigh.
“I do love you, that’s why I’m leaving now,” Sara countered gently before looking away.
“That doesn’t make sense,” he shot back
“You don’t understand,” Sara began shaking her head. “I’m damaged goods, everyone I love gets hurt. If I stay…look you’re just better off without me.”
“Gina…talk to me, make me understand…please,” John pleaded as he sunk onto the bed near her.
“Let it go John, you’re better off without my baggage. I’ll be gone soon, by the time all of you get home, I’ll be gone. You’ll never see me again, and can find happiness.”
“Damn it Gina… just please tell me. If you tell me, then I’ll stop. I’ll let you go… just tell me so I can understand. Please,” he begged.
Sara glanced away once more, looking at the window before sighing and making her decision. “I changed my name when I was eighteen, to Virginia Lynn Toscano. The Toscanos were the last foster family I had before going to Harvard at sixteen. Just before I graduated with my degree in Theoretical Physics, they were killed. The whole family murdered…they never caught the people who did it, and that’s what led me to Criminalistics.”
John frowned, even more confused, “You have a degree from Harvard?”
“Yeah, I loved Physics, math, science…they were my thing. School was my thing, the one thing I was good at, and the one thing I got recognition for. Studying let me ignore the truth about my life. After…after the events at Rosslyn I went back west, completed my Masters at Berkley in physics. Took back my birth name. When Jed called, he gave me the option of using either name; I chose to become Gina again. I wanted to forget the things in Vegas…” shaking her head Sara sighed before taking a drink of her water.
“Before I changed my name, I was Sara Sidle…Saraphina Gemini…my parents were hippies,” she explained with a shrug. “They married when my older brother was born in October of sixty-seven, Rus was the name he preferred…they named him Aquarius Libra…God, he hated his name,” Sara smiled at the memory of all of them complaining over their names. “He was one when they bought the Bed and Breakfast, Sha and I were born there three-years later, suppose to be born in October like him, but we came a few weeks early...”
“My sister, my twin…” Sara smiled sadly, “Shanti Gemini. My name was a version of the Latin Seraphinus, which is derived from the Biblical Seraphim, which of course was Hebrew in origin meaning ‘Fiery Ones’,” she paused “I was the one with the temper, was born first and came out screaming like a banshee…or so I’ve been told. Sha was right behind me, quiet as can be. So much so that at first they thought she wasn’t breathing…Shanti is Sanskirt for quiet, peace, tranquility...” trailing off she shrugged.
“My dad was an alcoholic, hated the Bed and Breakfast…I remember we used to be in our room at night, listening to the screaming coming from the bedroom down the hall. We used to wonder what was happening in there…why it was such a different sound than those we knew from experience. The sounds of hitting…”
Sara shook her head slightly once more before continuing, “My father was abusive, growing up none of us knew any different, we thought all families were like our own. The trips to the hospital...you’d never know that there was such a thing as holidays, birthday celebrations, even happiness in my home. Besides the drinking, my dad did drugs…but no one else could…I remember once, I found some weed under Rus’ bed. The one and only time one of us got the others in trouble…he was heavy into drugs by the time he was ten, would stay out as long as possible…
“Sha and I were six when we finally found out what happened in their room each night, after the screams stopped, I remember hearing footsteps coming towards our room. When Rus got home, he checked on us. The torn sheets…he found us in the closet, huddled together…blood on our nightgowns. It only got worse after that,” she glanced up at him for a moment before looking away.
“I was the fighter; Sha just took it all, never made a sound. I was her protector…we were identical, right down to the gap between our teeth. The only way you could tell us apart was by our personalities…she was my best friend, we could talk about everything, sometimes without using words…we suffered through everything together, it only brought us closer together. When we were nine, we were up in the tree one day, talking about what we wished our names were. Mine was Virginia Lynn; her’s was Samantha Diane…
“Dad had been forced to go out and get another job, business was bad…he hated it, came home drunk that day, and he heard us in the tree. I remember something grabbing my ankle, and hitting the ground. He dragged me in the house, up the stairs…Rus came out of his room when he threw me down on the landing…Mom came out of the kitchen…Rus hit him, when he started to undo his buckle…” Sara paused as she reached up to wipe the stray tears. “My dad just yanked him away, but Rus came back…pulled his arm out of its socket, he ended up with a broken collarbone that night…
“I started fighting then, my ankle was already broken, torsion fracture from the force he’d used to pull me from the tree…I got a broken wrist for my trouble…right wrist, left ankle…” she shook her head before continuing. “My mom came up the stairs, tried to stop him she ended up hitting her head on the doorjamb and was out for about twenty minutes. Things get hazy then, but I remember the day was that first time I ever heard Sha raise her voice…first time I heard her yell. She told him she hated him, so many other things...I can still hear the last time she ever raised her voice…only time we ever screamed in unison…as she was falling down the stairs…”
Reaching up she wiped more tears away before taking a shaky breath. “Rus and I were sent to the beach, as the sun set we came back to the house, the police had come and gone, we went to the hospital that night, no one asked anything after hearing that I had slipped on the rocks, my ankle got stuck in a crevice and I broke my wrist when I tried to stop my fall. Rus supposedly hurt himself trying to get to me. They never asked; they were so used to the accident prone Sidle children in the Emergency room.”
“After that, I just stopped fighting. Rus really disappeared in the drugs, not that I blamed him. It was better than the life we lived…the B and B went under when I was ten, and we moved to a smaller place across town. I was twelve when my mother finally snapped. After Sha died, he’d never come to my room anymore, always dragged me to his…Mom came home one day, and snapped…”
“It's funny...the things that you remember and the things that you don't, you know. There was a smell of iron in the air. Cast-off on the bedroom wall. There was this young cop puking his guts out front in the bush by the door. I remember the woman who took me to foster care. I can't remember her name. Which is strange, you know, 'cause I couldn't let go of her hand,” Sara paused once more. “I do remember the looks. I became the girl whose father was stabbed to death. Fifty-eight times…I was in the closet…”
“Rus came home; the police were there, just before they took me to a hospital. We were both placed in the system, different houses…we barely saw each other, except for when we went to see Mom in the psych ward before her trial. She was sentenced in eighty-four, twenty-five to life…still there, last I knew. I lost Rus the following year, he OD’d. After that, I didn’t let anyone in, too afraid to lose anyone else. The Toscanos tried so hard to love me…but I couldn’t let them in, all I did was study.”
“I finished high school at sixteen, went to Harvard on a full scholarship. I dated a lot; I wanted to be loved so badly it’s not funny. There was this one guy, Ken Fuller…he was the Organic Chem Lab TA…I remember he had hazel eyes, was BMOC…he used me for sex, I knew that at the time, but I didn’t care. March ninety-three we went down to spring break together, introduction to the mile high club…” she smiled cynically. “I caught him with two other women. After that, I didn’t date again. My second ‘boyfriend’ was Hank, just last year in Vegas. Turns out he was using me as the other woman, met his girlfriend of two years when I was working a case. The only other guy I ever cared for, before coming back east, was Grissom…he was the first time I ever fell in love…”
“I remember the first time I met him, he’s an entomologist, a fellow CSI, came to Frisco for a case. We had a girl, maybe ten, who had been raped…he was so gentle with her, when I watched him… I fell in love with him in that moment. Three-years-ago he asked me to come to Vegas, to investigate one of his people. I jumped at the chance, ended up investigating the guy a second time a few months later…needless to say, I didn’t make brownie points in that friendship. Last year another co-worker’s husband died, I got the case, but couldn’t prove that his murderer did it and she’s hated me ever since. And Griss…I finally asked him out last year, after the explosion…another thing I haven’t told any of you about,” Sara paused before shaking her head. “He turned me down flat, a few months later the call came and I came here…I decided to put everything behind me, and it worked for a while you know? I had my first friend since Sha, people who treated me like family; I actually got to see what Christmas was like, a real Christmas…”
Glancing over at the window once more, Sara batted at her tears, “And I nearly forgot what it’s like to be alone, how everyone I love gets hurt…how much I will never be loved. Don’t you see John? Leaving now is better; you’ll only be more hurt in the long run.”
“Gina…” John began with a sigh. “God girl, you’ve been hurt more than anyone should have been…you’ve survived so very much. You deserve some happiness in this life. You’re like a phoenix; you’ve risen so far from the ashes of your childhood. But that doesn’t define who you are. These men…they don’t know what the hell they missed when they did this to you,” he continued softly as Sara wiped at her eyes. “I love you, and hearing this only makes me love you more…I get that it was too soon for marriage… but please don’t run. Please Gina…”
“Don't leave me...” Sara whispered. “If I stay...you can't leave me...”
“Never,” John promised before pulling her into his arms as she cried.
Saturday June 25th,
Grand Floridian Hotel
Jen was concerned about her brother,
after he’d asked if she’d seen Sara, she hadn’t seen him once. And finally
convincing Michael to let her go, she made her way towards John’s room, Michael
on her heels.
“Jen?” John asked surprised when he opened the door. “Hi...”
“Are you all right?” asked Jen in concern.
“I'm fine,” he answered immediately before glancing back into the room. “Hang on, I'll come out there, she's sleeping...” he continued as he looked back at her and Michael.
“She?!” demanded Jen as she shoved passed her brother and into the room. “John how could…” Jen trailed off when she caught sight of just who the ‘she’ in question was.
“Can we take this back outside now?” John asked softly while watching Sara to make sure she hadn't woken.
“John, what’s going on here?” questioned Jen once they were back out in the hallway.
“She hasn't slept in three days, she collapsed a few hours ago after we talked,” John explained with a shrug.
“Oh my God, have you guys seen Gina?” Zoey interrupted as she ran up to them before Jen could say anything else. “She's not in her room, we can't find her...”
“She's in there,” John explained and Zoey deflated with relief.
“Good, you two talked. Make sure she eats okay? She hasn't eaten since your dinner together. Okay? Okay, bye,” she continued before running off.
“Want to help me force feed her later then?” John asked as he looked at his sister and best friend. “I'm not sure if she'll tell you right away, but she explained things to me...I understand why now, and don't blame her. It was bad Jen, really bad,” he trailed off with a sad smile.
“I don’t know John,” sighed Jen. “I’m probably the last person she wants to see right now.”
“I doubt that Jen...” John began with a sigh wondering how much to say. “You're her first real friend Jen...I'm not sure what was killing her more in her belief that she had to leave, leaving me, or leaving you and our family. Something just tells me she's going to want to see you.”
“We’ll come back later John,” Michael said before Jen could argue any further.
John nodded before watching them leave. Once they were gone he turned and headed back into the room.
Saturday June 25th,
Grand Floridian Hotel
“John…are you sure Jen even wants to
see me? She was pretty, and for a good reason, angry earlier…” Sara began
“God, you two sound so alike it’s not even funny,” John chuckled before helping her to her feet. “She said the same thing you know?” he continued as they walked to the door before opening it, Jen and Michael in the hall about to knock.
“Who said the same thing?” Michael asked, having heard the last as the door opened.
“Gina here had the same thought Jen did…thinking Jen won’t want to see her,” John explained
“Oh God...” Sara whispered, not believing he just said that.
“My God, John, can you blame me? I mean I did threaten to rip her to pieces after all,” commented Jen quietly.
“I didn't exactly believe you'd do that, you were upset,” Sara shrugged lightly as she looked over at Jen. “I'm sorry.”
“You were breaking up my family, Gina. I was losing the only sister I have plus my brother on top of it,” replied Jen.
“I know,” Sara sighed softly.
“Okay, we are having dinner delivered to Gina's other room, and it should be there in about, oh ten minutes. So why don't we head over there then we can all talk?” John spoke up; the hallway probably wasn't the best place to be having this conversation.
“Sounds good,” replied Michael. “Lead the way,” he said taking Jen’s hand in his.
Once everyone was at the room, arriving just before dinner came, though for the most part they just picked at the meal. John got Sara talking, though she left out the majority of the actual details she had blurted to John earlier that day, giving Michael and Jen the simplified version of her life story, so they could understand.
“Gina, if you haven’t figured it out by now, you’re not as smart as I gave you credit for,” sniffed Jen. “You’re a part of our family, as insane as it is, and you’re stuck with us for the rest of your life whether you like it or not,” Jen said before getting up and walking over to Sara and hugging her.
“You realize it goes both ways,” Sara countered as they hugged.
“Of course,” agreed Jen. “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Tuesday June 28th,
Disney’s Magic Kingdom Park
The rest of the trip went fantastic,
everyone was happy again. No one ever talked about what happened those days
that Sara practically disappeared. What happened with the marriage proposal
wasn’t mentioned either, though everyone knew about it. But for now they chose
to just let it go, to enjoy the rest of the trip and the fact that all was well
in the group once more.
Their last night was spent at the Magic Kingdom, the majority of the group finding a place to see the fireworks on Main Street, Sara and John were the ones to ditch them though, instead being on Cinderella’s Golden Carousal as the fireworks went off. When it stopped, John jumped off before offering his hand to help her down. Sara just shook her head before taking his hand. When her feet touched the ground, she found herself between him and the horse she’d been riding.
Glancing up she smiled softly when she saw John watching her. In that moment she made her decision, “Marry me,” she whispered.
“Gin…” John began surprised.
“Please?” Sara countered gently. “I don’t want to be alone anymore; I don’t want to be afraid to live…”
John smiled softly before nodding. “Yes…God yes,” he laughed before picking her up and setting her back on the horse. “I love you, Gina.”
“I love you too ,John,” she giggled before kissing him.
Friday October 31st, 2004
The months after the trip to Disney
World passed rather quickly, or so it seemed to Jen and Sara. Zoey started
collage again in August, and the two found themselves back in school, passing
notes in the back of the class like teenagers. They never let it interfere with
keeping a close watch on Zoey’s safety though.
Wedding plans were made for just after Thanksgiving, Kevin and Patricia insisting on paying. They claimed that thanks to Jen and Michael having a small wedding at Disney World, they still had quite a bit in the wedding fund. And besides, they considered Sara a daughter. Colors were chosen, red and hunter green. Well, to be more precise it was hunter green dresses and vests and single red roses for Jen, Alicia, and Zoey to carry.
They had found her wedding dress as well; Jen, Patricia, Zoey, Abbey Bartlet, and Alicia going hunting with her. Well, she didn’t exactly have a choice, they all showed up at her place and basically dragged her away, and she had just laughed and gone with them. Sara had never imagined herself in one of those elaborate dresses, like the ones princesses wore, but the moment she’d seen herself in the one, she’d fallen in love with it. They were having a big Catholic wedding, for John, and her dress had a Cathedral length train. She still wasn’t sure how she was going to manage dancing in it…
Having the wedding paid for, John and Sara turned their attention to the honeymoon and finding a house. It was John’s idea of Paris, and Sara’s to stay at Disneyland Paris, much to Jen’s amusement. Then the job of finding a house was fixed as well, when the family that owned the house across the court from Alicia and Thomas received orders to Travis Air Force Base in California. Between their VA Loans, and the money John had in savings from his genius investment in Microsoft when it first went public, they had no problem buying it. When Sara had learned he had bought stock in the company, her mouth dropped open, when she learned Michael and Jen had as well, she promptly found a chair to sit on. From then on it became a running joke that she was just marrying him for his money.
Her birthday came around just after she moved into the house, she, Jen, Alicia and Thomas bringing John’s things over. After the boys returned home Sara had her very first birthday party, even if it was a bit belated seeing as it was over a week after her birthday. Kevin and Patricia came up, and the senior Bartlets came with Zoey and Charlie; and Kate came with Abby, they even dragged Gibbs, and the new member of the team, McGee with them. Sadly even Tony DiNozzo tagged along, and Dr. Mallard, the Chief M.E. more commonly known as Ducky came along as well.
Her favorite gift though was the one from John, well, one of the ones from John, a figurine of Fawkes from Harry Potter. To remind her of how she rose from the ashes. That had started her collection of Phoenixes, while a glass unicorn and Pegasus from Alicia started the collection of Unicorns and Pegasus’s. Jen also had something for her that was technically from Harry Potter, she had a necklace of a dragon because of Michael’s nickname, and so Jen got her a necklace of a wand, for John’s nickname of Merlin.
With the new house, and time on her hands when John was away, she had set to doing something with the backyard. They were the ones with a pool, while Jen and Michael had a Jacuzzi in their backyard, and Alicia and Thomas had the large deck complete with outdoor kitchen. But other than the pool, it was really just a big green yard on the hill, so Sara decided to add some color. And so the rose garden began, starting with the official Disneyland roses, the John F. Kennedy roses for John, and the Veteran’s Honor roses. From there she’d sat down to really design the garden, she had always loved roses, one of the things that she and Sha dreamed of having when they grew up, to get away from the beach and enjoy gardens. By the time October rolled around she had set up the small gazebo and archway that was across the yard, a few benches joining the mix. And dozens of different rose bushes joined the growing garden for spring. John had just shaken his head and smiled, sitting on the deck and playing his guitar while she planted. They’d be out there for hours, he playing any song she wished while she sang. More often than not the others would join them, and they’d end up having a party of sorts, ending up at Alicia and Thomas’ for dinner, hitting the Jacuzzi at Jen and Michael’s for warmth considering it was getting too cold for the pool.
Time continued, and soon it was Halloween, and they were at Jen and Michael’s getting ready, they had a party to attend that night.
“I still can’t believe you dyed my hair,” John shook his head as he ran a hand through his now black hair.
“Hey, at least yours is temporary,” Sara laughed. “It will wash out after a few washings.”
“I think you both look good with black hair,” Jen spoke up
“I know, I’m seriously liking it,” Sara smiled as she curled a lock of her now bluish-black hair around one finger.
“I’m seriously liking you in that outfit,” John countered with a grin.
“Well, that’s a given considering she’s Jasmine and it’s the blue outfit,” Jen teased as she put on her shoes that resembled glass slippers.
“Isn’t that Mike’s job?” Sara asked with a smile before turning her attention back to her fiancé, “Considering I’m half naked, of course he’s happy. This is the most skin he’s ever seen on me, even my pants and tank top I sleep in cover more than this.” She smirked while slipping on her own blue slippers.
“I’m starting to suspect our vow of chastity before marriage may be my undoing,” John moaned.
“You’ve survived ten months, you can survive another two,” Sara teased.
“Evil woman,” John shot back as he adjusted his cape; his costume was that of Aladdin as Prince Ali.
“And yet, you are marrying me,” Sara chuckled as they made their way to the car.
Forty minutes later they arrived at the residence of Jed and Abbey Bartlet in Alexandria. The ex-President and First Lady were hosting their first Halloween party since before he was elected to the White House. In fellow attendance were the Bartlet family, and many of those who had once worked in the West Wing. Sara had to smile at the sight of CJ dressed as an ice skater, and Josh dressed as a knight. She had a feeling he had known Donna was coming as a Medieval Lady. Sara had known of Donna’s crush on Josh before she had left, and when she returned she had quickly figured out Josh had a thing for her. Though it appeared Donna had reached her breaking point on the matter, Sara couldn’t blame her; she had been in that position herself and made the same decision. She only hoped Donna might find happiness and love like she had.
“Now if this isn’t a sight,” Jed’s voice drew her attention from her thoughts. “Always knew she was Cinderella,” he continued as Jen sunk to the ground in a graceful curtsy before rising.
“Did you expect any less?” Michael asked chuckling.
“No, I suppose not,” Jed laughed. “Jasmine and Aladdin, Cinderella and her Prince. Pictures will be taken, be prepared.”
“We’re having professional pictures taken as well,” Jen giggled
“Good, we want copies,” he nodded before heading off to greet other guests, and the four turned to enjoy the party.
Hours later, after they’d done everything from bobbing for apples to a few carnival type games, Michael and John both winning gift certificates to a spa for the girls. They had pumpkin soup and spiced apple cider, caramel and candy apples, popcorn balls and enough chocolate to satisfy Jen and Sara. They’d raved over the cake, a haunted castle complete with a graveyard bearing tombstones with the names of various members of the group.
When ten rolled around, they all piled into a caravan of cars and headed to a local haunted house, and after they headed to one of those cornfield mazes, the Bartlet’s having arranged for private use after normal hours. They split up and made their way through the maze with lanterns, Sara freezing her butt off along the way. Even so, she was thrilled to be there, enjoying her first Halloween.