Love Will Tie The Slipknot
by internationalprincess

"If I told you what it takes to reach the highest high
You'd laugh and say nothing's that simple.
But you've been told many times before;
Messiahs pointed to the door
No one had the guts to leave the temple."

The suitbag's her enemy.

The boys cope with one suit and they look sharp. She needs four; can't fit them in her luggage and always looks slightly rumpled. She realises she's drawn the short straw. They parade around in jeans: she has to wear something that might work on camera-- just in case.

Most of her clothes are in boxes in the L.A. garage of a friend who looked askance at her when she said she was giving up her house and hitting the road. "Politics?!" he'd laughed, "You can't be serious."

CJ misses the pool she never swam in, the spare bedroom only her cleaner went into, and the view pollution occasionally permitted of the Hollywood sign.

Daylight begins to slide across the dark polyester of the rumpled comforter on the bed. Four nights in this hotel and she hasn't gone to sleep early enough to even warrant closing the curtains. She breaks her nail and the zip of the bag in one swift movement, catches her breath and holds it. She looks up at the ceiling so any tears stay where they are.

Suddenly Josh is hammering on her door, yelling, "Now, CJ. Quit powdering your nose! The bus is leaving," and her cell and the phone beside the bed start ringing at the same time. Cacophony is always a cure for introspection.


Now and again, she thinks about the beginning.

She peeled her wet clothes off in her bathroom with the door open while he talked about New Hampshire, someone called Josh, and didn't mention his wife.

She put on matching underwear, thought about the time they shared a cigar in San Francisco, a postcard he once sent from New Mexico.

She stepped out into the bedroom to find him leaning on her windowsill with the morning sun behind him, his features dark.

"Why should I do this?" she asked, running a comb through her still-damp hair. Wishing she'd put her laundry away. Wishing she didn't care what he thought.

He reeled off a list of reasons. The only one she can recall now is that he wanted her to.


From the outset he takes to calling her at the end of the day. It doesn't matter if she's on another coast, in another state, or in the next room.

He starts the calls without preamble, usually to complain. At first about how ridiculous the whole exercise is, how hopeless Sam is turning out to be, that the Governor won't listen to anyone. But gradually, minute by minute, he turns to other things: the end of the movie he caught when he finally got to bed last night, the political biography he bought at the airport, his brother's next mission.

Toby draws her out. In the beginning she thought he called because he didn't trust her to do the job. But it's become clear that's not the reason. She tells him about losing her mother, the mistake she made with the reporter from the Post, that she's allergic to shellfish.

Once, around two in the morning, he falls asleep while she's talking. She holds the phone to her ear for a while longer and imagines she can hear him breathing.


Half an hour before she sleeps with Toby for the first time she's drunk enough that everything spins slightly when she goes to the bathroom. She presses her head against the mirror. There's a dark line across her lower lip from the red wine and she can feel the tar sunk firmly in her lungs.

The way she remembers it later, he was the one who suggested they go to his room. He disagrees, maintaining the whole thing was her idea. Mostly she can't remember it at all. Which seems odd, for something so important.

They have an ugly conversation the following week about infidelity. He uses words like 'adultery' and 'betrayal' and says he doesn't want to be the sort of man who cheats on his wife. She spits the word 'scarlet' like venom, claims she's never been the type to play the 'other woman'.

(A quiet voice inside her murmurs about a Marriott somewhere in Austin, a Texan senator who is now the Democratic frontrunner.)

He sighs heavily, and rubs at his forehead. She's expecting him to get up and walk out, but he orders another round. And then another.

Later, he whispers that she's too beautiful as he presses her against the wall of the elevator. She avoids making eye contact with herself in the mirrored door behind him.


It's just a campaign thing, she rationalizes. It only happens when they're drunk.

Ridiculously drunk.

So drunk that one morning she wakes on the floor of her hotel bathroom, face pressed to the cold tile. She remembers the whiskey (Toby's idea). There may have been wine as well. She's shivering and there's a button missing from her shirt. She peels the plastic from a glass but it slips from her shaking hand and smashes in the sink. Ragged glass shards against cold white enamel and a drop of her own blood.

She brushes her teeth under the faucet over the bath, turns her cell phone off and goes back to bed. When she stirs several hours later there are four increasingly irate messages from Leo.

Toby hasn't called.

She wakes up under the shower, doesn't meet his gaze at the afternoon staff meeting. She tries to tell herself she's more worried about her liver than her reputation. Truth be told, she just wishes she could look herself in the eye.


Three things happen in quick succession to make her realise this has turned into something else.

They're moving states that day and she's packing yet again. Standing in the bathroom scooping cosmetics into her vanity she realizes the box of condoms she bought the week before, refusing to blush in front of the teenager working the 7-11, is empty.

Back in the bedroom she counts four of Toby's shirts among her clothes.

Five minutes later, Josh calls and launches into a lengthy rant about polluter pays. When she points out that it's Toby he needs to speak to he responds, "I know. Can you put him on?" She looks at the bedside clock. It's six a.m.


There's acid in her stomach the first time Toby says, "I don't think we should keep doing this."

She wonders if the statement would be easier to swallow without the taste of him in her mouth. Mostly she resents the fact that he got to say it first. In a tortured black and white romance from the 1940s, she would be the mistress with a conscience. The one who turns her back on her lover because she believes in the sanctity of marriage.

They're in Manhattan, Kansas, and CJ's not sure she believes in the sanctity of anything anymore.

He's already out of bed and fastening his belt and she knows she's missed whatever opportunity there was for a snappy comeback, so she rolls onto her side and lights a cigarette. He loathes her smoking in bed.

He hesitates at the door of her hotel room. There's a thick silence. If he's hoping for a reaction, she thinks, he's out of luck. She reaches for the remote and snaps on CNN, and when she looks up again he's gone. She falls asleep with the smell of detergent on the sheets and the sound of Josh and Mandy's headboard thumping a steady rhythm against the wall.


If she was explaining it to someone else, she'd say he pushes her, professionally. Pushes within her, pushes her outside herself. She'd say he makes her stronger, fiercer, expanded. Inside, though, she knows she's fragile. She can't hide the dark circles under her eyes or the fact that she's prone to tears.


She convinces him to take her dinner somewhere in Chicago. She argues it'll be positive to do something platonic and non-work related, but what she means is something less sordid.

They agree to meet at a restaurant a block from the campaign office. Leaving together risks Sam or Josh inviting themselves along. Not subterfuge, not exactly.

She finds a table in a corner, and fidgets with her napkin, keeps glancing at the clock on the wall above the bar. It's twenty-two minutes before he walks in. He doesn't seem to be in a hurry.

"I'm sorry I'm late."

"It's a metaphor," she shrugs at him, as he pulls out his chair and sits down. A flash of annoyance crosses his face.

"It's really not, CJ."

The restaurant's too loud. She asks to see the wine list. He says he's not drinking because he has a draft he needs to work on later. The evening swiftly deflates.


Four days before Valentine's Day she lets herself into his room to drop off the latest polling from CNN. He's not there, but at the back of his desk against the wall there's a tiny paper bag in duck-egg blue. Her heart leaps just a little.

(A month before: four in the morning, orange street-light sliding in through the windows, 'Breakfast at Tiffanys' on TCM, room-service french fries. Toby rubbing the soles of her feet as she waved a fork around and expounded on the brand power of a little blue box tied up in soft, white ribbon.)

On Valentine's Day itself, she can't keep a small smile off her face.

She finally runs into Toby as she juggles binders on the way to their evening round-up. He's heading the wrong way.

"I have dinner," he mumbles, shrugging into his coat. The look he's giving her is fashioned from a sour combination of guilt and regret.

CJ shoves the binders into the arms of an intern and excuses herself. She walks to the end of the block, buys a packet of cigarettes and a bottle of Coke. Her room in the Motel 6 is on the third floor. She sits on the landing of an outdoor staircase, her legs dangling under the rails, metal pressing patterns into the backs of her thighs. It's a cold, clear night without stars. She feels nauseated, thinks about emailing her resignation to Leo and just getting in the car.

But under it all the most she feels is stupid. She feels angry at herself and furious with him. So she makes resolutions, breathes them out with the smoke. Three nights later she breaks them when he places his hand against her cheek.


In the South everything is too hot, and it isn't the first time she's wished she had the energy to hurl something through the window in the hope that movement might create fresh air.

He's stating the obvious, and she hates him for it. Talking as he traces lines on her skin below the hem of the Bartlet for America t-shirt, talking about propriety and appearance. About the fact that technically, technically, he will be her boss. She rolls an ice cube on her tongue, wishes he would shut up. She knows these things, and his telling her only makes it seem like he's the sensible, mature one. Like she's love struck. Awestruck. Like she doesn't understand just how high the stakes are.

"Tell me more," she sighs, the air heavy with her sarcasm and their sweat. She rolls away from him onto her stomach and closes her eyes. She wishes all this could have gone unsaid.

She wakes later to find him hunched over the too-small writing table, working. When she climbs into the shower she twists the tap all the way to cold but it barely lowers the temperature of her overheated skin. Her skin is slightly damp as she straightens her thin skirt, unfastens another button on her shirt. He may not want to be with her, but he can damn well continue to want her.

He looks up as she leaves the bathroom, she can feel his eyes on her as she throws things in her tote. Her cell phone rings and she answers it as she lets herself out.

Leo's on the line, and he sounds agitated. "Toby's not answering his phone. Where the hell is he?"

She pauses in the bright afternoon sun long enough to light a cigarette, wishes for a moment she had the energy to either get addicted or quit. "I'm not Toby's keeper."

Exhaling, she slips her sunglasses on to hide red-rimmed eyes. "Try the hotel-- I'm sure he's writing."

Sliding behind the wheel of the rental, she turns the key. Warm air blows from the vents, and the stereo sings about crucifying the insincere.

She pulls out of the parking lot.

She's never doubted that he loves her, never doubted that it's not enough. She remembers a night when she lay tracing circles on his naked chest as he said, "You deserve better than this." And it's all in the implication, in the promises he won't make, in the ones she's never asked of him. What she wants more than anything is to have walked away weeks (months) ago. Any strength in victory is lost.

Endings should be powerful, combustible. They should reverberate with declarations of long and resolve. Endings should be something more than rumpled sheets and fading daylight.

The next night she can no longer smell his cologne on the t-shirt she's wearing. She sends it to the hotel laundry with a note to return it to his room.


Silverlake: Authors / Mediums / Titles / Links / List / About / Updates / Silverlake Remix