Read Long May She Reign Online

Authors: Ellen Emerson White

Long May She Reign

 

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Contents

Title Page

Copyright Notice

Dedication

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

Chapter 40

Chapter 41

Chapter 42

Chapter 43

Chapter 44

Chapter 45

Chapter 46

Chapter 47

Chapter 48

Chapter 49

Chapter 50

Chapter 51

Chapter 52

Chapter 53

Chapter 54

Copyright

 

 

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Thanks

1

THE WORST PART
—although it was hard to choose—was that she still cried. A lot. Mostly at night; always alone. Which was risky, because her parents inevitably came in to check on her, and she'd have to pretend to be asleep.

But now, it was going on to two in the morning, and she was by herself in her room, and she sort of wished that one of them
would
come in. See how she was. Have a conversation about nothing in particular, maybe. But, it was the middle of the night. Normal people were already asleep.

Meg pushed away from her desk. Her chair was on rollers now, which was one of the many changes in her life that they didn't really discuss. At least she wasn't using the actual wheelchair anymore. Just a brace and a cane. And her hand, gosh, she could almost move two of the fingers now, and—yes, it was time for Nightly Self-Pity.

For that matter, it was also time for some more ibuprofen. At this point, the doctors only gave her prescription painkillers as a last resort, and she couldn't quite bring herself to tell them how much she still needed the god-damned things.

She reached for her cane, then changed her mind. The thought of making her way across the room to the bathroom was too tiring. Hell, even the concept of getting up and limping the few steps over to her bed was exhausting to contemplate.

“Hey, you,” she said to her cat, Vanessa, who was asleep on the rocking chair by the fireplace. “You want to fetch me some water?”

Vanessa stretched out one paw slightly, but otherwise didn't respond. Didn't even open her eyes.

Of course, this was the White House. All she had to do was pick up the damned phone, and someone would appear within seconds, and—except that it was too late to bother them. Too embarrassing. Too
pathetic
.

Christ, she was tired. Using her good hand, she dragged her chair back to the desk and looked at her books. Even though it was only two courses, the work was still too hard. She should have just taken the semester off. Maybe the whole year. But then, she would spend even more time alone in this stupid room, and what? Sleep twenty, twenty-two hours a day? Wake up for the occasional meal, or physical therapy session? Oh, yeah, that'd be productive.

Which didn't change the fact that even her truncated version of college was too much pressure. Having to leave the house—having to leave the second floor, for that matter—accompanied by three times as many Secret Service agents as she had had before, while everyone
everywhere
stared, and took photographs, and—well, nothing like getting kidnapped by terrorists to guarantee ending up being the center of attention. To become permanent public property.

All the more so, because she had ended up with a few battle scars.

To say the very least.

Yup, Self-Pity Time was kicking into high gear.

“If you do something well, do it often,” she said to Vanessa, who didn't even stretch this time.

So, she picked up
Winesburg, Ohio
, the book they were currently reading in her Twentieth Century American Fiction survey course. The other class she was taking was Introduction to Astronomy. Mainly, because it was taught in a darkened auditorium, and she could keep a low profile. Unfortunately, the class was pretty hard—or else, she had become very dense—because retrograde motion and parallax seemed to be beyond her. She'd never exactly been Miss Wizard, but before—last spring—at least she hadn't been a
cretin
. Now, just opening the book made her hands shake.

Hand.

Whatever.

There was a soft knock on the door, and Meg turned in her chair, feeling instant relief and annoyance. Definitely the President's knock. Her father's knock would be both higher on the door, and louder.

Less guilt-ridden.

“Come in,” she said.

The door opened, and her mother stepped into the room, her glasses—she always wore contacts, so she must be tired, too—in one hand, a couple of thick leather binders under her arm.

“I didn't mean to disturb you,” her mother said. “I just—I saw the light.”

Meg knew perfectly well that the lamp was on, but glanced at it, anyway. “Yeah.”

“Lots of studying?” her mother asked, her expression more worried than she'd probably intended.

Meg nodded. “Yeah.”

“Pain okay tonight?” her mother asked.

No. But, Meg just shrugged.

Her mother shifted her weight, and then moved the briefing books to her other arm. “Do you—need anything?”

Other than a new life, say? Meg shrugged, and looked at her mother, who seemed pretty exhausted and shaky in her own right. “Are you up because you have work, or because you can't sleep?”

“I can always find work to do,” her mother said, wryly.

There was no such thing as a direct answer from a woman who held regular press conferences. But, it was also more than slightly possible that her mother was staying up until her father went to bed first, since the two of them weren't exactly skipping through meadows together these days.

Yet another situation which loomed over all of their lives, but was never mentioned.

“You're sure you don't need anything?” her mother asked.

A serious dose of painkillers. “Could you—” She felt stupid asking someone, particularly the damn
President
, to— “I was, uh, just going to get some water.”

Her mother moved so swiftly to the bathroom that Meg felt even more stupid, and she picked up her cane, then eased her way over to the bed. She couldn't work the childproof lids on pill bottles with one hand, so everyone always left them open for her.

Cut her meat into bite-sized pieces.

Checked—far too often—to make sure that she didn't need help with what the occupational therapists tactfully called “personal care.”

Just generally made her feel like a strong, proud, and independent adult.

She shook two ibuprofen out and waited for her mother to come back. “Um, thank you,” she said, and gulped the pills down, trying to make it look as though her hand
wasn't
trembling.

“Would the heating pad help?” her mother asked. “Or some ice packs? Or we could hook up your TENS unit?”

Doubtful, in all three cases. “I'll try it, maybe,” Meg said, then finished the water and set the glass carefully on the bedside table. “The heating pad, I mean.”

“Would you like some more?” her mother asked, poised to move.

She was always thirsty now.
Always
. She nodded without making eye contact.

Her mother went to refill the glass, and then reached for the phone. “Why don't I have them bring in a pitcher of ice water for you?”

God, no. Meg shook her head.

Her mother hesitated, withdrew her hand, and looked uncomfortable. No,
unhappy
. Completely, utterly,
miserably
unhappy.

“I'm fine,” Meg said. “Just kind of tired.”

Her mother nodded, and they avoided each other's eyes.

“You're sure there's nothing else I can do for you?” her mother asked finally.

A question they all asked her about seven hundred times a day, and she never really had an answer. “No,” she said. “Thanks.”

Her mother nodded, and took a step towards the door. “Well. I'll let you get some rest.”

Except that naturally, now that she was leaving, Meg couldn't help wanting her to stay. “I—” She stopped. No. It was way too late to start a Conversation. And her mother, what with being the leader of the Free World and all, unquestionably had a much more pressing day ahead than she did.

“What,” her mother said, moving Vanessa—who hissed and leaped onto the bureau, knocking over a stack of prescreened unanswered sympathy letters from strangers—so she could sit down in the rocking chair.

She looked so eager, that Meg couldn't bring herself to say, “Never mind.” “I just—I keep thinking—” Meg stopped again. Kept thinking
what
? “The semester's going to be over soon.”

Her mother nodded.

“I mean—” Christ, she really had no idea what she meant. Even when she was trying as hard as she could to concentrate, her mind seemed to fumble things. “I don't know.”

Originally, she would have been going off to Williams for her freshman year, but then, when her plans were—interrupted, they—she?—had decided that she would commute to George Washington University, instead. Warm up, sort of. Then, second semester, maybe she could—only now—

“Whatever you want to do, we'll arrange,” her mother said.

Whatever she
could
do would be a better description. Meg swallowed. “I don't know if I, um, you know—well—”

“So, stay here through the spring,” her mother said. “Williams isn't going anywhere.”

No. Probably not. “I don't really like it,” Meg said. Actually, she hated it. “GW, I mean.”

“Well.” Her mother frowned, and used her glasses to move her hair back. “How about Georgetown? Or—”

“I don't like
school
,” Meg said. Or, she didn't like going out. Then again, she didn't like staying
in
, either. “I mean—” God, she didn't have the energy for this. “I'm sorry, forget it. This isn't a good time to get into it.”

Her mother sighed. “Meg—”

“I really can't talk about it right now,” Meg said, starting to feel panicky.

“Just remember that you don't have to make any decisions until you're ready,” her mother said. “You're not on a timetable.”

Oh, yeah, right. It wasn't like the whole god-damn world was watching every single move she made. Not like that at all.

“Okay,” Meg said, and hoisted herself onto her cane. “I, uh, think I'll get ready for bed.”

Her mother stood up, too. “If there's anything—”

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