Unspoken Attractionby Alexandra
Ever since the first time that Donna went down to Ainsley's office after her date, Ainsley had made it a habit of coming up to her desk at night to finish her work and talk. This evening, Ainsley was typing on her laptop, and Donna was just sitting there. Suddenly, out of the blue, Donna asked, "Ainsley, when was the last time you had sex?" Sam, who was walking past, stopped, his attention caught by the word sex. He stood outside the secretarial area, listening to their conversation from where they couldn't see him. "Excuse me?" Ainsley looked up in surprise.
"When was the last time you had sex?" Donna repeated. "I haven't in a long time. About a year. I'm in a drought."
"God, it's been a while for me too. Not since I broke up with my boyfriend about four months ago."
"Oh. Why did you break up with him?"
"Well, he was having too much sex, and not all of it was with me."
"Men are scum. I had another date last night, with a guy named Curtis. It didn't go very well. In fact, it sucked."
"I'm sorry. What does he do for a living?"
"He's an investment banker."
"Oh, well, there's your first clue."
Sam continued on to Josh's office. "Ainsley and Donna are out there talking about sex," he said.
"Great," Josh replied as he looked for something.
"They're talking about how they haven't had sex in a while."
"Fine. Damn it, where the hell is that folder?" Josh hunted through the endless stacks of papers and folders on his desk.
"Ainsley said that she hasn't had sex since she broke up with her boyfriend. She said he was having too much sex, but not all of it was with her."
"Yeah, Sam, so what?"
"I never imagined Ainsley having sex. She's so... I don't know, conservative."
"She's a Republican, Sam, not a prude."
"I know, it's just, I've never pictured her having sex before."
"Sam, I swear to God, if you say that anywhere other than this office... Do you know how big a sexual harassment suit you just put the White House at risk for?"
"I know. It's just..."
"Sam, she's a beautiful woman, why the hell wouldn't she be having sex!?!" Josh said loudly, fed up with Sam's ramblings.
"Am I interrupting anything?" Ainsley asked, appearing at the door. She had obviously heard his last comment, and she looked at them with raised eyebrows. The men stared at her for a minute, Sam with an ashen look on his face. "Josh, I just wanted to drop off the info on 195 for you," she continued, handing him a folder. They still didn't respond, and she said, "Are you guys okay?"
Josh finally pulled himself out of his stupor and said, "Fine, thank you Ainsley."
"Okay, I'm going. See you tomorrow. Bye, Sam," she replied, still looking at them strangely as she left the office. They stood in silence for a minute. Sam asked suddenly, "What were you thinking about?"
"What were you thinking about?"
"I am not allowed to say, because it may put the White House at risk for a sexual harassment suit."
Sam looked up from his laptop when he heard a soft knock on his office door. Ainsley was standing there, holding a manila folder.
"Hi," he said, motioning for her to come in.
"Hi Sam. I just wanted to drop off the grand jury stuff," she said, walking to his desk and handing him the file.
"Thanks," Sam said. He looked at her and said, "I hear Leo is sending you to talk with Senator Dayton."
"Yes, he is."
"That's something I could have done, you know."
"I'm sure it is, but he asked me," Ainsley said, regarding Sam warily, sensing a possible argument.
"I'm a very good lawyer," Sam said.
"I'm sure you are."
"I made partner at Gage Whitney in New York before I joined the campaign. I billed out at $500 an hour in the private sector."
"I know Sam, but you're not a lawyer for the White House, and you're certainly not making $500 an hour. You're a speechwriter. And as much as you might not like it, I was hired to do particularly this sort of thing." She looked at him for a minute, waiting for a reaction. When she received none, she asked, "What are you working on?", gesturing towards the laptop.
"The President's remarks regarding affirmative action for his meeting with the NAACP. It's against my better judgement, but I have to ask. What do you think about affirmative action?"
"Sam, are you looking for a fight? Because I obviously don't agree with you, and you know that."
"I know, I just want to hear what you think."
"Well, I believe that jobs and scholarships should be handed out based on merit, not the color of a person's skin. And if the person who best meets the criteria for the position offered happens to be white, then so be it."
"But the playing field isn't level," Sam argued.
"So you propose to level it by setting lower standards, which minorities consistently fail to meet?" Ainsley responded, her voice getting sharper.
"But, it's not..."
"This White House is fond of spouting the idea that all people are equal. Well, guess what. I agree with you on that one. African Americans and Hispanics and all minorities have the same capacity to succeed as white people do. But, if you believe that's true, then why do you feel that the government needs to help them accomplish what we can do without assistance? Doesn't that strike you as the least bit hypocritical?"
"They're trying to overcome generations of discrimination and poverty."
"Sam, bad things happened in the past. I know that. Slavery, prejudice, I know. But, the only way to truly level the playing field is to encourage minorities to accomplish what white people can without help. The government is not a contingency plan, it isn't our job to bail out anyone that hasn't worked hard in their life, or doesn't deserve a job or a scholarship. If they want monumental changes to take place in their lives, the change has to start with them."
"Yeah Ainsley, you're a smart girl. You went to a top of the line private school, and they taught you all about slavery and discrimination. Hey, you might even have first hand knowledge of it, from listening to family stories about the slaves that were on your great-great-great-great grandfather's plantation," Sam shot back.
"Excuse me?" Ainsley interjected, her eyes flashing in anger.
"If you think that occurrences in the past have no affect on the present, then you're dead wrong. If you look at the history of black people, then take a look at race relations in this country today, you'll see the correlation. They don't have the opportunities we have, their schools..."
"Then we fix the schools," Ainsley interrupted. "But we don't just throw them a lifesaver and give them an easy way out. I know plenty of people who have overcome adversity and poverty to make great things of themselves, without affirmative action. They succeeded because they wanted to, and they realized that maybe they had to work a little harder than white people, but they compensated."
"What do you know about overcoming adversity? You're the epitome of white upper-class suburban America, " Sam said, his voice harsh.
"Excuse me? And you aren't?"
"You don't have any experience dealing with poverty, adversity, or discrimination," Sam continued as if he hadn't heard her. "These people haven't had the advantages that you grew up with. They need our help."
"We can't help people who aren't willing to help themselves."
"Would you still be saying that if the people we're talking about were white?"
"Are you calling me a racist?" Ainsley asked, really furious now.
"Hey, you said it," Sam replied. Ainsley just stared at him for a minute, then got up and walked out of the office. Sam quickly got out of his chair and followed her.
"I am so sick and tired of being raked over the coals every time I voice opposition," Ainsley said as she stormed down the hall. "I'm a Republican, okay? Get over it. I thought you guys would have grown up and stopped hating me by now."
"Ainsley..." Sam started, trying to catch up with her.
She turned around to face him. "You know, I'm not asking for you to like me. I'm not even asking for you to respect me, I'm just asking for there to be a lack of open hostility." She started walking again.
"You know what Ainsley?" Sam called. "It's not that we hate you, it's that you scare the shit out of us." Ainsley turned around, mouth open in surprise. "You want to know why? Over the years we've convinced ourselves that Republicans are the enemy. We've convinced ourselves that they're ignorant, gun-toting bigots. So, it's scary to be accosted by the idea that there are actually good, smart, passionate people out there who disagree with us, because we can't paint them as the bad guys anymore." There was dead silence in the bullpen as people stopped what they were doing to watch this scene unfold between the Republican and the Democrat whose ass she kicked on national TV. Ainsley stood in shock for a minute, staring at Sam, hardly believing he had just paid her a compliment. Then her face softened.
"Thank you, Sam," she said quietly. She gave him a slight smile, and continued on down the hall.
Ainsley exited Senator Dayton's office, and closed the door with a sigh. She looked up, and saw Sam standing out in the hallway, leaning against the wall.
"Hi," he said.
"Hi, Sam," she replied as they started walking down the hall. Was he waiting for me? She wondered. "What are you doing here?"
"I had a meeting with Cameron."
"Oh." They walked in silence for a minute, both remembering the argument they had had earlier in the day.
"How was your meeting?" Sam asked, trying to fill the silence.
"Well, it was alright I guess," Ainsley said without any enthusiasm. She was so discouraged; she hated it when people didn't take her seriously. Senator Dayton was such a chauvinist.
"He wouldn't agree to talk to the Majority Counsel?" Sam asked.
"No, I got him to agree to what I said, it's just, well, never mind."
"Well, he, um, it's just, he hit on me," Ainsley finally said reluctantly.
"He hit on you?" Sam asked, incredulously.
"Bastard," he muttered, getting angry.
"Sam, it's not that big a deal," she said, putting her hand on Sam's arm to steady him. "I'm used to it."
"You're used to being hit on?"
"No, no. It's just... it's hard to get men to pay attention to you when you're young, blond, and southern."
"What, men don't like young, blond, southern women anymore?"
"In the political world, Sam," Ainsley said, slightly exasperated.
"Yeah, when you first saw me, you thought I didn't know anything," Ainsley said, a smile of amusement playing at her lips.
"Well, I just, I didn't really.... I mean," Sam stuttered.
Ainsley laughed at his discomfort. "And then I kicked your ass."
"Yes, you did," he said ruefully. "You know, I was hearing about that for a long time. Toby and Josh particularly had a lot to say."
"I can imagine," she said, smiling. He smiled back, and they walked the rest of the way to the car in a comfortable silence.