The Ghost of Christmas Present: Part II
December 22, 4:50 pm CST
For someone who'd always claimed he liked to be able to live life on the sidelines, Danny had taken to celebrity very well. It didn't really surprise Sam. He was friendly, good-natured, and charming. He knew how to laugh at himself and how to put others at ease. Somewhere along the way, the awkward, shy, and desperate-to-be-liked boy she'd known in high school had grown into a poised and self-confident man. While he'd never relished the limelight, he certainly hadn't withered in it during his brief stint as a celebrity, either.
Now that Sam was the center of all the attention that really belonged to him, she found it difficult and draining. She didn't have his chipper disposition, nor his ability to charm and win people over. She was opinionated and brutally blunt, and while these were qualities that served her well as an activist who knew how to stir up a crowd with just enough outrage to motivate into action, they were not qualities that suited her current role as the grieving mother-to-be. Everywhere she went, people wanted to touch her. They wanted to talk with her, offer encouragement and kind words about Danny, and to ask her how the baby was. She tried to take it as compassion. People cared, and she needed them to care if she was going to have any success at all in her legal and political battles. But she wasn't Danny, who could easily assume the best in others unless he had a reason not to. She was suspicious by nature, and she tended to believe that most of the interest in her was less than noble. She could see the questions in their eyes left unasked. Is the baby a freak? An abomination? Is it even Danny's?
She wasn't being fair, she knew, at least not when she was home. The residents of Amity Park were almost uniformly supportive. They practically worshiped Danny Phantom, and they viewed the impending birth of his son with the anticipation one might expect for the birth of the Christ child. Tucker had even made a crack about it when he'd been home for Thanksgiving. Good thing you're not due until March. Can you imagine if the baby were born at Christmas? To a Jewish mother? All you'd need is an unexpected trip, a city full of no vacancies, and a manger, and you could start your own religion. She'd slugged him for it, but it was nothing that hadn't already occurred to her.
Away from Amity Park, however—especially in Washington—it was a different story. The country was fiercely divided, and for every adoring Danny Phantom fan she ran across, she could find an equally ardent detractor who was convinced she was carrying some sort of demon spawn, and that the most prudent course of action would be to shove her down a flight of stairs and hope like hell she miscarried.
Sam didn't go to Washington without a bodyguard anymore.
But for all the speculation, only a select few knew for sure that the baby most definitely had the same genetic anomalies as his father. The results of the amniocentesis she'd had in her sixteenth week of pregnancy had been kept strictly confidential—not that Sam had needed the amnio to tell her that her baby was part ghost. The only thing she'd found out from that test that she hadn't already known was that it was a boy. So far, she and Dr. Mihashi had successfully navigated all attempts at warrants and court orders to release her medical records, thus keeping the rest of the world guessing as to whether or not the baby had ghost powers. Not that the bastards didn't keep trying to find out for sure.
Speaking of… She sighed as she came into the living room, throwing her coat across the back of a chair and flipping on the TV to C-SPAN to check on the latest efforts to shore up the anti-ghost code before Congress changed hands in January. She grimaced when she saw that they were still in session under quorum call and, according to the scrolling text on the bottom of the screen, probably would be going through the night in order to finish before Christmas Eve so they wouldn't have to reconvene on December 26. Tucker was convinced the majority party was doing it on purpose, trying to wear everyone down so they could slip in something before they lost the majority in both houses when the new Congress convened on January 4. Sam certainly wouldn't put it past them, and now Tuck would have to push his flight back even further. I should send the Learjet, she thought. They'll never get a flight out of D.C. tomorrow evening or, heaven forbid, Christmas Eve.
She muted the TV, then flipped on the MP3 player, which had holiday music programmed into it. Despite being both Jewish and a goth, she had always loved Christmas and all its trappings, an affection she'd inherited from her grandparents. From the time she was a little girl, Grandma Ida and Granddad Ben had instilled in her an appreciation for not only her own faith traditions, but for the many good things that other religions and cultures had to offer as well. She'd been only eight when her grandfather had died, but her grandmother had continued to remind her every year, right up until her own death last March, that differences were something to be celebrated, not feared. It was a belief that Sam tried to live out in every aspect of her life, and while the mixture of Christmas and Hanukkah decorations around her home and the Christmas carols that played on her stereo all through December primarily represented the blending of hers and Danny's different lives and backgrounds, it also was her way of embracing all that her grandparents had taught her.
And this year, despite her loss, she clung to that with a white-knuckled grip. They'd taken Danny from her—she wasn't about to let them take anything else she loved.
Kicking off her boots, she headed for the kitchen to check her voice mail. Twenty-seven messages since this morning. Not as high a volume as before the election, and it was sure to increase again when their case finally went to court in January, but still. Twenty-seven. The bulk of them were from the media, and she skipped through each of these without listening. Not that they weren't important, but she'd let Paulina go through them and decide which ones she needed to attend to personally and which ones were better left to someone else.
Mixed in were a few calls from people she actually knew, including one from her mother. Hello, Sam. I hope you're well. Your father and I haven't seen you since the first night of Hanukkah, unless you count the sound bites on TV. I just wanted to make sure you're taking care of yourself… and the baby. Give me a call. Or… I guess we'll see you at the vigil on Christmas Eve.
Sam blinked in surprise. Her parents were going to the vigil? Things had been so awkward the first night of Hanukkah, not only because of the baby, but also because it was the first holiday season since her grandmother's death. With neither Grandma nor Danny there for moral support—not to mention the pain both their absences caused—it had been a tense evening, and Sam had expected her parents to avoid events like the vigil after that. Not that they were against the work she was doing, but they'd never been among Danny's fans, either, and weren't exactly thrilled at the prospect of a half-ghost grandson. She found it ironic that they were still so ambivalent about Danny, considering the fact that he was the one who had always pushed her to be more accepting of them. In his absence, and without her grandmother giving her reason to visit, she had trouble finding the energy to keep in touch with them at all. She knew she should call her mother, but she didn't think she'd be able to muster up the fortitude before Christmas Eve.
Two more messages from the press, then one from Jazz. Hey, Sam. Mom said you had a doctor's appointment today, so I wanted to check in. And I wanted to make sure you're still staying over at their place after the vigil. I made them swear a blood oath that they wouldn't drag out the old Christmas argument, so don't let that scare you off or anything. I'll call you later tonight, okay? Don't work too hard.
She skipped a few more messages from the media before coming to one from Rob Collins, her foundation's General Counsel, calling in with his daily progress report. Most of it was nothing new, except for a conference call that had been scheduled for seven o'clock the next morning with Miguel Sanchez, a D.C.-area lawyer who had done some consulting work that helped get the fledgling Human-Ecto Alliance off the ground back before Sam had even started law school. She made a mental note to call Rob back later and find out the details to see if she needed to be in on the call, although she suspected anything that was important enough for Miguel to request a seven AM conference call two days before Christmas would be something she'd want to hear.
After Rob, came… Hey, Sam, it's Dash. Wanted to find out how the doctor's appointment went, make sure everything's good with the little Dash-ster.
Sam rolled her eyes. She was so not naming the baby "Dash."
And I wanted to see if there was a good time to drop by tomorrow. Patrick went on another baking binge, experimenting with one of those damned vegan Christmas cookie recipes again. He made, like, a bazillion of the suckers, and if you don't take them off my hands, I'm gonna be stuck eating them. So, give me a call.
Translation: Dash and Patrick wanted an excuse to come over and check up on her. Again.
Last was Paulina. Okay, you're not in, and you're not answering your cell. Oh, wait! Today was the doctor's appointment, wasn't it? Did you get any good ultrasound pictures of Baby Pauly?
Sam grunted. She would sooner name him after Dash.
Anyway, I'll make this quick. Everything's set for the candlelight vigil on Christmas Eve, and then I'm gonna spend the first week of January in D.C. schmoozing senators. I know you're going down for the swearing in, and I need to know how much time you're planning on staying there. I haven't decided if it would be better for you to be in Washington or Amity Park the last couple of weeks before the court date. The whole expectant mother thing plays really well, but your sour attitude could peel the paint off the White House. Yeah, on second thought, you definitely need to stick to the grass roots and all the boring legal mumbo-jumbo, and let me do the schmoozing. Maybe a day or two of photo ops, and that's it. We'll talk about it after Christmas.
Sam sighed. And people think I'm blunt. But she wasn't wrong, and Sam knew it. Paulina knew how to turn on the charm when she wanted to, and she enjoyed the attention, whereas Sam only put up with it because she had no choice—everyone wanted to talk to her.
She shook her head at the irony. How the heck did I end up one of the popular kids?