No Song Has Gone Unsung
by tahlia

I. Children, go where I send thee

The nurse mumbles, "Excuse me," and "Pardon me," through a crowd of concerned faces in the waiting room and pushes on the doors to the prenatal intensive care unit. They've been there for days, weeks even; so has he, hand on the edge of the incubator, one finger running up and down his daughter's tiny, tiny chest. (At least now, she's larger than his hand.) He doesn't say a word.

Today, however, she is rifling through a chart and she feels his presence beyond her. She turns, not at all startled, but surprised to see a Senator's face so fallen and sad. He asks if she is the nurse on duty, and she replies, "Yes, Senator," (because his face has been on television for as long as the people have been rotting in the waiting room chairs) and there's a spark of something in his face.

"Will she--" (Pause.) "Is she--" (Pause.) "How is she?"

The nurse saw his wife only once, because she doesn't normally work this shift, but Celia remembers that she was crying and her other daughter was old enough to try and comfort her mother.

One glance at the chart: she can't possibly lie, but the truth isn't that much easier. "It's hard to say, Dr. Bartlet."

He sighs. "Please--" but then he's covering his face with the palm of his hand. Celia doesn't have the kind of answers that he needs; he already knows about her underdeveloped lungs, about the (slim) chances she will ever breathe without a machine, about the limits of modern medicine.

He sways between her and the incubator, before waving his hands to wipe his slate and turning back to his dying baby daughter. (This is the truth they've been hiding from the cameras.) The nurse hears him apologizing, "I'm sorry, Zoey," over and over again, sounding more broken than the man who was elected to the New Hampshire Senate two months ago.

On the way out, she thinks she hears him say, "I used to hope you were a boy."

No, that's not what she heard.

Can't be.


II. Pack and get dressed, before your father hears us

Zoey could put her hand on the wall and feel the stereo blaring next door. She calls Charlie, is short and brief and yes, he's already suspicious; she throws the cordless on the bed, where it sinks into the sea of her comforter, and does just that-- raises her hand, with her palm flat against the cinderblocks. She's lost in the rhythmic beat that maybe on another day she could identify, so she misses the first time he knocks on the door.

The second knock is harder, more insistent; he's nervous. And she opens the door and kisses him right there, standing in the hallway, knowing she'll endure the stories later: she'll say, "fuck off," and push past them. She kisses him hard, delaying the inevitable, and his fingers entwine with hers and he smiles when he says her name: "Zoey?"

One glance over his shoulder to Gina, and she pulls him into her room, slams her door. She collapses on her bed, but he's still standing there in the half-light, so she's going to have to say something eventually.

"There's," but she stops. Can't find the words. She tries, "I," but fails. Finally: "There's a thing."

She can hear him breathing; the bass beat is gone. "Yeah?"

She hides her face in her hands for a minute, wiping away her fear; or, trying to. Then she says, "I'm late, Charlie."

And, yes, it's the same conversation between thousands of couples on a thousand different college campuses.

But then, Charlie isn't one of those boys without his wits. It hits him like a ton of bricks-- she sees it in his face-- but he doesn't play dumb, doesn't let his tongue get ahead of him. She can't stand the silence, but he speaks before it kills her. "Okay."


He says it again, but the inflection is different: "Okay." Like he's trying to convince someone, maybe himself.

Neither says a word. In the next room, someone turns the stereo back on, and the throbbing makes its way to her ears and suddenly, she can't bear it. (There's a small twinge in her: is it the hormones?)

"Are you--" He stops. "Have you--" Pause; sigh. "I don't want this to come out the wrong way, but--"

She waves her hand to a plastic bag by her schoolbooks. "Stacey bought me one. Five, actually."

"Right." His brain takes a minute to catch up. "Wait, she didn't just go down the street, did she?"

She hates that this is the second time this question has come up today. "Of course not. Five different stores, in five parts of Washington and the surrounding area I hope to God she never visits again. She could have been shot or mugged or-- or--"

She doesn't really notice she's crying until she feels Charlie's arms around her. That their contact makes her register the salty lines running down her cheeks. He gathers her up and suddenly she's sobbing into his shoulder, letting the fear and the anxiety and everything wash over like a tidal wave. And then--

"Oh, God."

Charlie pulls back, leaning in close with his arms still on her shoulders. "What?"

"My dad. Oh, God." She can't begin to imagine the disappointment. "What am I going to say?" (To say nothing of what she'll have to tell CJ and what CJ will have to say to the press, because God knows the American public would love the story.)

Charlie hugs her again, holding her tight, and into her hair she thinks she hears him mutter, "Later."

Eventually, she untangles herself from him, wiping the moisture from her face, and with one eye on the plastic bag, she declares, "Let's do this."


III. You ought to be praying, sinnerman

She swallows the tequila shot to wash away the taste of her own vomit in her mouth. It's been three months, but it hasn't gone away; the sight of Josh in a wheelchair, trying to smile under the lights of the cameras, only makes it stronger. It doesn't take long for the alcohol to affect her, and her body moves with slightly more feeling to the music in the crowded basement, and maybe it feels good. Maybe it feels good to feel so free after all this time, and to not care that there are at least two pairs of eyes watching her that aren't classmates of hers.

She stumbles through Georgetown and barely makes it to her floor before she's in the bathroom, vomiting. Maybe she cries a little, too. In the hallway, students are still breaking down boxes, unpacking their possessions for another year of learning. It occurs to her that she used to make fun of girls like her, the ones who came to college and got wasted on their first night. She's sure not to slam the door when she finally reaches her room, because it's almost four in the morning and Stacey is sleeping.

This happens more than once, and a few more times than she can remember.

Charlie says she parties too much these days. (She likes to tell people it was she who finally broke it off, because that way she can make him something he was not, but he said, "Zoey," and she ran with it from there. She ran.) She tells him that his concept of fun is warped, and when he starts to argue, it occurs to her she feels a little hung-over from last night.

Josh almost loses it at Christmas, and this is the first time she tries cocaine. A friend of a friend slips her an invitation to a party (because who wouldn't want to party with the President's daughter?), and she's sitting in the corner drinking eggnog when Billy Parsons invites her to the basement. "Merry Christmas, baby," and she doesn't miss his hand inching higher up her thigh as she leans over the mirror. It burns; oh sweet Jesus, it burns. "Jesus Christ, Billy. Make sure I don't do this again." Except, now she's less aware of what she's doing, and she lets him take her upstairs.

The new year comes and the dancing becomes more frenetic; the drugs become more familiar and the thrill becomes to wear off. Because she is her father's daughter, she learns the fine art of shrugging off her protection. In the springtime, she finds herself in the basement of Billy's fraternity.


"Come on, you promised."

"I," but he stops. He takes two steps back and covers his face with his hand. For a moment, he resembles a decent human being. "I can't."

She can feel the anger pulsing through her, but then, that could be her body's cravings. "Why the hell not? I gave you seven hundred. I want my stuff."

It takes a little to get his words out. There's a long pause, and somewhere a bird is chirping, and then he says: "You're too emotional."

Anger. "What?" A beat, and she is suddenly defensive. "I don't know what you're talking about. Billy, please."

She's moved close, a hand on his arm, slowly moving up and down. He breaks from her, pushing her away. "Your dad...and then the funeral. It's on TV, Zoey. You're sad, you're angry, you feel betrayed, and now you want to score to help you forget that. I-- I can't."

With venom in her voice, "What the fuck is that, Billy, a conscience?" Her words are exacting, and they are precise. "Give it to me. I don't care, I'll give you an extra hundred, just do it."

Later, her body will be strapped to a stretcher on CNN, MSNBC, and FoxNews, and the analysts will sigh and say what a broken family the Bartlets were. They will pump her stomach, and everyone from Baltimore to Seattle will know how much she took and when and how she hid the marks on her arms. She will be asleep and Leo will visit her, and much later, when she's old enough to know how stupid she was, he will say that he saw himself in her and it almost broke his heart. In the future, her therapist's voice will correct her-- not stupid; it's Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Even still, when it enters her bloodstream, her vision goes white and it is bliss.


IV. One of these mornings, I'll be gone

She comes to before she can tell the difference between the darkness and her eyes, shut. Her eyelids feel heavy as soon as they are open, and it's the only way she can tell that she is awake. Instinct tries to lift her hands to rub the creases of her eyes, but she can't: she's restrained, duct tape around her wrists, and a cold, heavy chain around her waist. In another instant, she feels the adhesive of the duct tape around her mouth sticking to the tiny hairs on her face. She can barely breathe.

She feels her legs stretched out in front of her; her thigh muscles ache a little when she tries to move, and her half-coherent mind is already jumping to conclusions. She thinks she's crying, too, but it could be sweat. It's so fucking hot, here, in the dark, and her sheer shirt is sticking to her arms like a second skin. Her chest heaves with a sob, and the chain around her waist cuts into her, and she winces. Now her head is throbbing, too.

It hurts everywhere.

She hears voices. Ahead of her, there's a shaft of light: someone is opening a door. Heavy footsteps on wooden stairs; she squirms more, and then there's the sound of a gun cocking in the darkness. Her resistance escapes her, and she is still.

"Little bitch." His voice is rough, and she recognizes the way it makes the hairs on the back of her neck stand on end, from when he pressed her against the bathroom stall and held that gun to her temple.

The door opens again, and suddenly there's a flood of light; she winces. A man with a small radio is standing at the bottom of the stairs. Even in this dim light, he looks like one of the new agents assigned to her detail. (She can't remember his name.) He runs a hand through his blond hair. "Jorge--"

The other man snaps: "What?"

He holds up the radio, and Zoey can hear CJ's voice: the words wash over her; she doesn't hear anything. She shuts her eyes for a second, and suddenly she can feel the cold end of the gun on her temple again. When she opens them, Jorge is staring down at her with hundreds of years of hatred burning in him.

"Hear that?" He leans in close, his breath ragged on her neck. He whispers into her ear, "They're coming for you."

She whimpers, even as the rational part of her brain yells that CJ wouldn't say that. In one movement, his fingers are ripping off the tape from her mouth, and she yelps in pain. It hurts so much, and she starts to cry, but the sound of her sobbing sets him off: he's waving the gun in her face. "Shut up! Shut up!"

The man with the radio on the stairs shouts for him to settle down, and Jorge turns the gun on him. "You, too!" He takes one step toward him; the man with the radio retreats up one step. "Fucking sissy boy! I thought you were going to piss your pants back there. Don't tell me when to settle down!"

His voice has a nervously calm tone to it. "Jorge--"

Jorge puts the gun right between his eyes, and Zoey is sure Jorge is going to shoot him. Somewhere, she finds her voice: "Please."

Jorge whirls on her. A moment passes. He whispers something, and she hears him praying to Allah. They don't look like terrorists. Not the man with the radio, at least, who looks like he should be studying for a calculus final in a big house in the suburbs. Jorge looks like a man who might steal an old woman's wallet in the subway.


There's a scuffle, the sound of his feet dragging on the hard, concrete floor. She screams. Jorge yells. The other man yells. Her forehead is cold. There's a gunshot. And it--


V. I was serenely independent and content before we met

She finds the small café where he proposed, in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower and half-filled with tourists, whom she feels entitled to dislike after three years; she takes a table outside. The waiter, Etienne, smiles and asks (in English, though she could barely tell), "The usual?" She puts on her best smile and nods, but he sees it, and soon she is sipping coffee with two creams, "et une peu du sucre." (Like always, she can barely tell.)

A couple, young and in love, are winding down the street, lost in themselves, this city, and the diamond ring on her finger, and she tries not to remember him the way she found Jean-Paul an hour ago.

("He loves me, Charlie," she whispered into the phone. She was huddled in the bathtub with the door shut, on the other side of the ocean, and her hand was cupping the mouthpiece in case Jean-Paul heard. "And I love him."

She heard something familiar in his voice: "Right, which is why you're talking to me, at-- what time is it there again?"

She hung up in disgust, but he was right.)

She twists the ring on her finger, which has always been just a little bit too big for her, since the moment it got there in that small, old French church. She never takes hers off, but he does ("don't want to scratch it"), and maybe this should have been her first indication that things weren't right. That, or the time she came home from a weekend in London and found it discarded on the nightstand like a forgotten object; maybe it was.

And she must be staring off, because Etienne's hand is on her shoulder. With a sympathetic smile, he asks, "Madame?" She brushes it off, and orders another.

(He took her hands in the hospital room, and she thought he was going to apologize for everything. Instead: "Come to France, Zoey."

In the back of an ambulance, Molly was icing a bruise on her hand. "Jean-Paul--"

"Zoey." He was suddenly more sober than she'd ever seen him. "I love you, and I almost lost you. I don't want to-- for that to happen again."

He reminded her of Charlie, the way he said it. The better part of her wanted to run, but she was lost in the thick accent that seeped into his English.

"No parties?" she asked with a raised eyebrow and a bit of a smile.

He kissed her forehead. "No parties.")

Her father sits in the living room in Manchester, waiting to be disappointed. She supposed he was right, that everyone around her was right and that she was the only one in the world who didn't see this coming. Even Donna, entranced by his voice and his family name, pulled her aside at her wedding and told the young bride-to-be to watch out. (She shook her head: "Donna, you're crazy. Go back to your cake or something.")

Now her mind can't help but go back, looking for remnants of the woman sleeping in her husband's arms, on her side of the bed. It doesn't take long either, because maybe she's suspected for some time now: the rearranged magazines on the coffee table; the bottle of aspirin on the sink, when she distinctly remembers putting it away; the missing pieces of fruit from the bowl in the kitchen, when she knows it wasn't Jean-Paul who ate them. If she goes back home, she'll find champagne glasses in the dishwasher wearing lipstick stains in a shade she doesn't own.

(Of course, she can't bring herself to do this. Tonight, she will crash at a friend's house; tomorrow, she will call to make sure he is not home. She will collect her belongings from the closet, and she will check into a hotel. She will book herself on the first flight to New York or Boston or Washington or anywhere that's not here. And then, she will call the lawyer.)

Across the street, the man leans down and kisses the woman, and Zoey begins to cry.


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