Ms. O'Connor Goes to Washington

Chapter 8

By: S.Lee

Disclaimers: While the characters in this story may bear a physical resemblance to our favorite couple, they are all mine.

Sex: Nothing graphic, but there is a consensual relationship between two women, so if you are under eighteen or its illegal where you live, scat!!

Violence: There is violence in this installment, nothing overly graphic, but quite heavy to read. There is also an attempted sexual assault.

Acknowledgements: Sam, thank you , thank you, thank you for the use of the laptop while I was on vacation. I couldn't have done this without you, literally. Jules, the best beta reader in the world, thank you so much for your time and effort, you are so fabulous. Thank you to everyone who has written and encouraged me.

Feedback: Always welcome and appreciated. You can reach me at s_lee_bard@hotmail.com

October

Jordan and Cynthia walked into the headquarters on the first day of the month. The election was only a month away and there was no way she could lose. She had six commercials that were beginning their run throughout the state for the rest of the campaign. She was expected by all political analysts to win easily. Both women walked into their individual offices.

Laura sat in her office going over the schedule for the morning meeting when her phone rang. "Hello, Laura Dodson."

The voice on the other end belonged to Kris Benson's campaign manager. "Laura, its Phil Jones. How are things over there?"

Laura rolled her eyes. "Hello Phil. Things are going quite well over here. I have a feeling you didn't call to engage in small talk. So let's cut the crap, what do you want?"

He laughed. "To the point as always, I like that about you. Some very interesting information about your candidate has come to our attention. We feel that it is our duty to inform the public. We think the voters have a right to know all about the woman they're about to vote into office. Although, she probably won't win after this."

Laura's heart sank, but she didn't let it show. "What the hell are you talking about?"

The smug campaign manager laughed again. "Oh I think you know exactly what I'm talking about. We know what happened in Nicaragua. The word ╬murderer' is such a strong word. Not only would she lose this election, she may not be employable. I would hate to see the reputation Jordan has worked so hard to gain completely disappear with one word. So, we're willing to keep this quiet if Jordan pulls out of the race."

Laura became livid. "I don't know what you're talking about. But you're a pig. And you're insane if you think she's going to pull out of this race."

Phil became serious. "I'm going to be blunt Laura. If Jordan doesn't pull out of the race by tomorrow morning, we go public with this. You know she won't win this election and this would destroy her career completely. We are holding a press conference tomorrow at nine. We will either be accepting her concession or exposing her, whichever you prefer. I'll be waiting to hear from you."

"Go to hell," Laura said sharply and slammed the phone down. She sat at her desk with her head in her hands. ╬Oh Lord, this can't be happening. We are so fucking close. How the hell is she going to react?' She picked up her phone and called Cynthia and James, asking them to come into her office. They walked in and sat down.

Cynthia looked at her questioning. "Ok, so what's up? You don't look good."

Laura looked at them both seriously. "Benson and his cronies found out what happened in Nicaragua, but they're calling it murder. Phil didn't use any specifics. It could be a bluff. But, is that a chance we want to take? They've said that they wouldn't make the information public if she pulls out of the race." She looked at Cynthia. "Do you think she would even consider leaving the race?"

Cynthia stood up, pacing, "I don't bloody believe it. How in the hell did this happen? What exactly did he say?"

Laura struggled to be rational. "Ok, to begin with you need to calm down. We've got to be calm for Jordan. He said he knows what happened. He said that murder was an ugly word and could ruin Jordan's entire career and reputation. He said that we can pull out of the race or he will go public and you know he's going to spin how everything happened."

Cynthia stood with her hands on her hips. "I don't know how Jordan is going to take this, but she won't pull out of this race, it means too much to her. I don't think she's ever completely come to terms with what happened. She's going to have to tell her family first, before she makes the announcement. How is she going to tell the kids, much less the whole world? She╬s kept things bottled up for over twenty years." Her tone changed, becoming protective of her vulnerable partner. "Did you know she still has nightmares?"

Laura just shook her head, raising her hands in frustration. "So should we wait to respond until after we see what they have?"

James looked at them both. "The problem with that Laura, is Jordan needs to respond immediately once the charge is made. She will want to tell the family in person first. There will simply be no time to gather everyone after the announcement by Benson is made and then make her statement."

Laura nodded. "You're right. Regardless of what she wants to do, she's going to have to tell the family and staff first."

They looked at one another for a few minutes. Laura finally threw up her hands. "We can't put this off any longer. Let's go."

The three of them walked to Jordan's office and knocked on the door frame. Jordan was on the phone and looked up at the open door. She smiled and waved them in while she finished her phone conversation. They walked in and Cynthia shut the door behind them.

Jordan hung up the phone and looked up at the three foreboding faces. "Ok, something's up. You three are never in here at the same time. I can tell by the look on your faces. What happened?" She arched her eyebrow in anticipation.

Both James and Laura looked to Cynthia to break the news.

Taking a deep breath, Cynthia began. "Laura got a call from Phil. He said he knows what happened in Nicaragua. They're going to expose you in a press conference tomorrow. He mentioned the word murder. My guess is they are going to spin what happened and make it look like you committed murder. Which, is of course not what happened. They offered to keep it quiet if you quit the race."

They stood silently waiting for Jordan to say something. Jordan sat, a million thoughts running through her head. She switched into her business-mode, stiff and in control, showing little emotion, she stood up and finally spoke.

"I'm not leaving the race. I'm not going to let that son of a bitch ruin me. I guess it's time for me to face the music. I need to tell the family first. I don't want them to find out from the press. I need to tell everyone in person. Cyn, would you and Laura make all the travel arrangements for my dad, stepmother, brothers, and Kate? Make sure everyone is at the house at eight tonight for a family meeting. I am supposed to be at a reception tonight, have someone go in my place. Have all the paid staff members at the house at ten-thirty. James, I want you to tap the phones. If Phil calls back, I want to record him trying to make a deal. And the three of you, I want you to deny all knowledge of what happened. I don't know how this is going to come out. In a worst case scenario, I look like a lying murderer and you three will look like conspirators. My reputation could be screwed and I don't want yours to be also. As far as anyone knows, the only thing you knew was that my wife was killed and I was threatened and went to Managua out of fear for my life. "

Cynthia began to object and Jordan put up her hand to stop her. "I mean it Cynthia. If I am going to go down, it will be me alone." Cynthia nodded quietly.

Laura touched her arm. "Are you ok?"

Jordan reassured her. "Yes. I'll be fine. But, I really need to be alone. Please have all the family at the house at eight. I would like for the three of you to be there as well." Sitting down she said, " I'm sorry if I've cost us the race. I know how close we are to winning." She sat still, waiting for them to walk out. She looked up at them again. "So, I will see y'all tonight." They didn't move. " Really, I want to be alone. I'm fine. There's a lot to do for tonight. Y'all go on."

The three of them looked at her in disbelief. They were confused by her reaction. She asked them to leave her office again. "Please, go on. I need y'all to take care of those things for me. I need to figure out what I'm going to say."

James and Laura walked out of the office. Cynthia stayed behind and walked up to Jordan, tenderly placing her hands on her neck at the base of her shoulders. She looked in Jordan's eyes. "Honey, tell me what's going on in your head."

Jordan placed her hands on Cynthia's and gently removed them, pushing her away. "Cyn, I can't do this right now. I need to get out of here. I've got to work this out before I can spill my guts to the world. Please, give me some space."

Cynthia looked at her, worried, her feelings bruised. "Where will you be?"

Jordan shook her head. "I don't know."

Cynthia took her hand. "Jordan, this distance isn't like you. Why won't you talk to me? You're shutting me out."

Jordan removed her hand and moved away from Cynthia. "I have to right now. Please understand. I really need to be alone. I am sure I will need your love and support and those strong arms of yours wrapped around me later. But, please let me go. I need to go."

Cynthia nodded and stepped out of Jordan's way. Jordan walked out of the office and drove her SUV home. She walked into the quiet house and climbed the ladder to the attic. She moved straight to a far corner, pulled away boxes, and blankets. She looked at the locked box and picked it up, carrying it down and into the bedroom. She opened the box and caught her breath as she removed the lid and her eyes focused on the contents. She picked up a white dress, closed her eyes and held it against her cheek. She reached in and pulled out a stack of old photographs. Jordan looked at the photos, smiling. She found her favorite of Maria lying on her stomach, looking at her, with pure love and desire. Jordan blinked as tears began to blur her vision. She touched the face in the photo. Holding the dress in her arms, she spoke to the image in the picture. "Aye mi corazon. I couldn't protect you. I couldn't keep you safe. I am so sorry. You would be with me today. " Jordan reached into the box and picked up two silver bands. Tears poured down her cheeks. She looked at pictures taken of them together on the day they were married. Jordan was holding her, they were both smiling and laughing. Maria was wearing the white dress that Jordan now held in her arms. Jordan was wearing faded jeans, a white button down shirt, and sandals. Her mind drifted back to the day they met.

1987

Jordan drove into her village in the jeep the Peace Corp had provided to transport supplies. She stopped at the church to meet the priest who was supposed to show her where she was staying. She walked into the church where the missionaries, priest, and nuns greeted her warmly.

The kind priest outstretched his hand to Jordan. "Buena Diaz Senorita Sharp. It is a pleasure to meet you. Welcome."

Jordan smiled and shook the priest's hand. "Gracias Father. It's good to finally be here. I was told you would show me where I would be staying."

He nodded. "Yes, it's not far from here. You will be staying in a small house at the end of the village. I think you will enjoy your time here. The people are wonderful. They are mostly farmers. We have a school for the children. The teacher is from here and was educated at the University in Managua. The nuns, missionaries and myself split our time between here and the neighboring village about 40 kilometers away. Come, I will show you your village."

The village was bustling with activity. There was a market, where locals bartered their goods with one another. Everyone stopped to meet Jordan. In the distance, Jordan's attention was drawn to a dark haired woman with large eyes, in a peasant blouse and skirt, barefoot, with her hands on her hips. Jordan couldn't take her eyes off the beautiful woman. She walked towards the schoolhouse. Her face was lit up with a huge grin as she strode towards the teacher.

She held out her hand in greeting. "Buenos Diaz . Mi nombre es Jordan Sharp. Son usted la maestra?"(Good morning. My name is Jordan Sharp. Are you the teacher?)

Maria smiled and accepted Jordan╬s hand, holding it for a few extra seconds. "Buenos Diaz. Si, soy la maestra. Mi nombre es Maria Gomez."(Good morning. Yes I am the teacher. My name is Maria Gomez)

Jordan was immediately captured from that moment. The feeling was mutual. Jordan began having dinners with Maria's family. She was the oldest child out of five and she still lived with her parents. They took walks in the jungles and Maria pointed out the flowers, explaining their healing power. It was during one of these walks that they shared their first kiss by the river.

Maria and Jordan walked down by the river, holding hands. Jordan saw a white flower by the water's edge. She picked up the flower and handed it to Maria. "For you." Jordan's smile lit up her face.

Charmed by the adorable expression and the gesture, Maria accepted the flower, kissing Jordan on the cheek.

Heat flooded Jordan's body. She took the flower from Maria's hand and placed it in her lush black hair. "You are so beautiful Maria."

Maria smiled shyly, lowering her face. Jordan lifted her chin to look into her eyes. She moved in and gently placed her lips against Maria's. They kissed softly, and innocently. They both grinned, with their foreheads touching. The kiss was the beginning of their brief, tragic life together. Jordan would bring Maria flowers at the end of the day and would walk her home. Jordan was a slave to Maria's smile and laughter. Maria would bring Jordan lunch while she worked. Maria and Jordan fell deeply in love. Jordan would spend her days helping the farmers with their crops or repairing homes, the church, or the school. Her evenings were spent talking with and singing and playing on old classical guitar for Maria. She taught Maria how to speak English. Maria taught her about love.

The night they first made love was one of the purest, most beautiful experiences of Jordan's life. Maria had never shared herself with another person. She was nervous and scared, but Jordan loved her gently, reverently. Jordan trembled with emotion as the women explored one another, giving of themselves freely. Jordan had never experienced love like that before. Maria was different from the girls in Texas. Jordan couldn't get enough of her. But Jordan had some explaining to do to her new father-in-law when they arrived back at the village already married. He was upset that Jordan married his oldest daughter without consulting him first. Jordan understood his feelings and was genuinely sorry to have hurt the man she respected and considered to be a friend.

He took her aside while Maria spoke to her mother. "Usted caso a mi hija sin mi benedicion y sin su madre y sin yo."(You married my daughter without my blessing and without her mother and I.)

Jordan nodded. "Soy muy arrepentido. Signifiqué no falta de respeto. Debo haber preguntado su permiso. Amo Maria y yo hago para el resto de mi vida." (I'm very sorry. I meant no disrespect. I should have asked your permission. I love Maria and I will for the rest of my life.) Jordan spoke quietly, with humble respect to the man who raised her wife. "Quiero vivir con ella como mi esposa. Quiero cuidar dela y hacer su feliz." (I want to live with her as my wife. I want to take care of her and make her happy.)

Maria╬s father looked concerned. "Son usted ir la estar tomando lejos?"(Are you going to be taking her away?)

Jordan wished to reassure him. "Si. Quiero tomarla con mi. Queremos que la familia venga también."(Yes. I want to take her with me. We want the family to come too.)

The protective father began to smile. "Usted hace a mi hija feliz. Eso me hace feliz."( You make my daughter happy. That makes me happy.)

Maria's father pulled his daughter-in-law into a hug, squeezing her tightly. Both women were relieved to get his blessing. Their relationship was easily accepted because of the kindness of both women. Maria's family loved Jordan as one of their own. The family and the village had a party that night for the newlyweds.

Maria moved into Jordan's tiny house that became their paradise. Unencumbered by material worries or possessions, they had only one another. It was sweet and pure and innocent. They talked about their future in the States, and the children they would have. Maria wanted to go to school in Texas and become a teacher there as well.

The country was in civil war with constant fighting taking place between the Sandinistas and Contras. The drug lords went unchecked by the local officials who were receiving money from the drug lords and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency. Drug lords began coming into the village, threatening the farmers, forcing them to grow Coca plants. They used kidnapping and murder to get what they wanted and minimize resistance. Jordan tried to fight their influence. She encouraged the villagers to resist and many times Jordan herself would stand up to their henchmen. She tried to contact the legal authorities, but it was no use. She was threatened many times to stay out of the situation, but she continued to do what she thought was right.

One night as Jordan and Maria were sleeping, Jordan woke up to a noise. She looked up and there were two men with pistols standing above her. Jordan looked down the barrel of the gun and squeezed Maria's hand, waking her.

"Levante!" The angry man with the gun yelled.

Jordan and Maria slowly stood up as they were commanded. One gunman shoved a pistol against Maria, holding her tightly. The other restrained Jordan with the gun against the back of her head.

Jordan said, "me es usted quiere. Salgala solo. Permita que ella vaya."(It's me you want. Leave her alone. Let her go.)

The assassin holding Maria laughed. He motioned to his partner to sit Jordan down in a chair, which he did, still holding the gun to her head. The henchman holding Maria ripped her shirt exposing her tan breasts. Maria cried out in fear. Jordan exploded in extreme rage. Without thinking, and with great speed, she moved her head from the gun and jabbed an elbow into her captor. He shifted quickly, aiming the gun at her as they began to struggle. The gunman holding Maria didn't shoot for fear of hitting his compadre. In the struggle, shots rang out. Maria screamed and Jordan looked down to see her hands and the front of her body splattered with blood that belonged to the thug who had been holding her. The dying man fell and his partner pointed his gun at Jordan. Seeing the gun aimed at her wife, Maria jumped in between the bullet and Jordan just as the trigger was pulled. The shot was fired, landing in Maria's chest. Jordan watched in horror as her lover dropped to the floor.

"MARIA NO!!!." Jordan moved like lightning to pick up the other gun that had fallen and she squeezed the trigger. The murderer flew back, blood splattering the room. Jordan moving towards him, blinded by rage and adrenaline, fired again and again, until she stood over him, looking into his dying eyes. She snarled and held the gun a foot from his heart. She fired the last shot into him, more blood spraying on her and the dying man's eyes closed. She dropped the gun and turned to Maria. She knelt down and cradled her in her arms. Maria was weak, but still alive.

"Maria, no don't leave me. Please baby, I need you." Jordan rocked her back and forth crying as Maria's lifeblood flowed over both of them. Jordan covered her exposed breasts.

Maria could feel herself dying. "I must go."

Jordan shook her head and ran her hands through Maria's hair. "No, no, you can't leave me. Don't go. You're going to be ok. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. Oh God, no. We're going to have children, beautiful children, remember? You have to stay with me. I need you. Please baby, hold on."

Maria reached up and Jordan took her hand and pressed it to her lips that were covered with salty tears.

"I love you Jordan, always."

Jordan felt like she was dying as well. "Te Amo para siempre."(I love you forever.)

Maria smiled weakly, "besame mi amor."(kiss me my love)

Jordan reached down and placed her lips against her wife's. After a few seconds, she felt Maria's body and lips go limp. Jordan held her tightly against her chest, sobbing hysterically. Crying out, "No! Don't you leave me!" She held her like that for the rest of the night. The two assassins lay a few feet away, in pools of their own blood.

Morning came and a young man from the village came to get Jordan when she didn't arrive at his father's house for work. He found her, still rocking Maria in her arms. Her face was streaked with tears and blood. Her clothes were stained red. He ran to get Maria's father. Maria's family came running to help their daughter and her possessed, grieving wife. Jordan wouldn't let them near her. One of Maria's brother took Jordan's jeep and brought the nuns and priest. They tried to calm Jordan and told her she needed to leave and that more men would come for her and kill her. She refused to leave. She wanted to die. Without Maria, her life wasn't worth living. The priest pulled Maria out of her arms. Jordan was too weak to put up a fight. One of the nuns packed Jordan's things. The priest and one of the nuns walked Jordan out of the house. She stopped and turned around. She went back to Maria, who was being cared for by two nuns. She kissed her head, slipped the wedding ring off her finger and left. She was taken to the convent in Managua, where she lived for the next year. Maria's family came to visit her while she was there. They brought some of Maria's things, like her wedding dress, pictures, her favorite shawl. Jordan kept these things hidden away for the rest of her life, like the pain and anguish she relived inside.

The Present

Jordan sat on her bed sobbing, holding the dress, feeling it against her skin. She slipped her wedding ring on the ring finger on her right hand. She clasped Maria's ring in her hand. She looked at the wedding picture. She continued to weep uncontrollably. She began to feel as if the walls were closing in on her. She went to her jewelry box and picked up a silver chain. She unhooked the clasp and slid Maria's wedding ring onto the chain and fastened it around her neck. She changed into her jeans, sweatshirt, biker boots, and leather biker jacket. She left the sacred mementos on her bed and went out to the garage.

She pulled the cover off her black and chrome Harley. She opened the garage door and started up the engine. The Hog roared to life. Jordan smiled, and slowly pulled out of the garage. She closed the door and drove down the road. She needed to get away from everything. She lost herself in the feeling of the highway beneath her. Focusing on the road, she was able to push the emotions down, for the time being. She increased her speed, knowing she was going too fast, but not caring. She flew up the winding hills to her family's cabin in the woods an hour away from home.

She parked her motorcycle in front of the cabin. She took off her helmet as she stepped away from the bike and walked to the edge of the hill. Lake Innis lay at the bottom. She looked down at the water, and up at the sky. She breathed in the fresh air. She walked over to a tree stump and sat down. She looked up into the vast heavens. "Maria? I hope you can hear me honey. Things are a mess right now. I don't know how to do this. I don't know how I'm going to tell the entire world what happened. I can barely talk about it with myself. You died for me. I should have protected you and I didn't. It was my fault you were killed." Jordan was crying again. "It should have been me. I killed you and them. It still hurts so much. Sometimes, I feel like there is a dark demon inside me, eating me alive. I can still see the blood in my dreams. I know what I am capable of and it scares me so. I don't want anyone to find out who I am. I wanted them to die. I had such hate because of what they did to you. I looked in his eyes and I shot him. Nobody knows this, not even Cynthia. I wanted to kill him. I wanted him to pay for scaring you, and hurting you. I can't tell anyone what was in my heart. I can't ever let anyone know what a monster I am. Help me find the words Maria. Help me make them understand. I'm about to lose it all. What if I lose Cynthia? I'm afraid to let this out. What if my kids hate me? I can't lose them." She fell on her knees and cried more.

She could see the sun begin its descent for the night. She climbed back on her Harley and drove home, hoping the rhythm of the road would soothe her. She arrived to a full house. Kate and Chris were both there. She hugged them tightly.

"Thank you both for coming. I know school is so busy right now, but it really is important."

Kate smiled. "Of course we would come. Are you ok?"

Jordan reassured her daughter. "Yes honey, I'm fine."

She went around and hugged the rest of her family and thanked them for coming. Laura, James, and Cynthia watched her, expecting an explanation for her disappearance. She walked into the bedroom to take a shower before she spoke to the group.

Cynthia followed her, angry. "Where've you been? I've been worried sick. You didn't answer your phone and when I got here, I saw things on the bed that I've never seen before and you are gone. Damnit Jordan, why you won't talk to me?"

Jordan looked at her and moved towards her. Without a word, she wrapped her arms around Cynthia and began to cry. Cynthia's anger dissolved and she held her lover tightly. "I'm sorry Cyn. There is so much going through me right now. It's almost too much for me to deal with. I can't quite find myself right now. I don't know. I need you baby."

Cynthia rocked her from side to side. "I'm here with you honey. You've got me. Why don't you go ahead and take your shower. You can talk to everyone when you're done." She smiled and reached up to wipe the tears from Jordan's eyes.

Jordan nodded. "Please tell everyone I will be right out."

Cynthia kissed her on the forehead. "Ok, we'll see you in a bit."

She stepped in the shower, hoping the right words would come to her. When she was clean and fresh, she walked into the living room. Her parents, children, and siblings were waiting for her.

She took a deep breath and began. "Ok. I know everyone's wondering what's going on. We got a call from Benson's campaign manager. Apparently, they have found something on me that they are going to make public tomorrow. They gave me the chance to pull out of the race in exchange for their silence. I can deal with losing a race, but I will not go out this way. What will be said is partially true and I wanted you to hear it from my lips first." She took a deep breath and continued. "When I was in Nicaragua, I met a wonderful, incredible woman named Maria. After a few months of courting her, I married her in a little Catholic church in Managua. I've never told you about her because it ended very painfully and the issue is very complicated. Between the civil war that was going on and the drug cartels, there was no sense of regular law that could be trusted. A drug cartel was trying to get the farmers of my village to grow Coca plants. In order to persuade the farmers, the cartel used violence against the farmers' families. I tried to stop them. I tried to report them and it didn't work. I tried to get the farmers to resist and my life was threatened. I thought I was doing the right thing, so I continued to try and stop them and did various things to sabotage their efforts. One night, Maria and I were sleeping in our bed and we awoke to find pistols in our faces. There were two men standing above us. They forced us to stand up and the man who had the gun against my head sat me down in a chair. The other one ripped Maria's nightgown and was going to rape her. I couldn't let that happen. I struggled with the gunman behind me and wrestled for the pistol. He was shot in the process. The remaining henchman pointed his gun at me..." Jordan had to stop and compose herself for a minute. She felt her throat closing. She took a drink of water and continued. "The other henchman pointed his gun at me and was going to shoot me. Maria jumped in front and the bullet hit her instead. He was going to shoot at me again. I grabbed the other gun and out of shear luck or whatever, I shot him before he could shoot me. I held her as she died." Jordan began to cry. She could see her mothers crying and she could not look at them. She took a cleansing breath and continued. "I continued to hold her until the next day when the priest and nuns of the village pulled me away. They took me to Managua to protect me from retaliation. The men I killed weren╬t high ranking members and the cartel gave up on me because I left and wasn't in their way anymore. I put in for a transfer due to threat of physical harm. I've tried to put this whole incident behind me. It is the worst thing that has ever happened to me. The only people who knew were James, Laura, and Cynthia, and they only knew that my wife was murdered. I've never told another soul about killing those men. I've never spoken to any of you about this because it was just so hard. The deaths still haunt me. I know I had no choice, but it doesn't change the fact that two people died by my hand. I don't know how this is going to be portrayed to the press. I think they're going to make it look like murder. I wanted y'all to hear the story from me. Please believe me, the only reason I kept this hidden is the fact that it is so painful for me." She looked at her family who was obviously shaken. Cynthia, who was sitting next to where Jordan stood, reached up and grasped her hand firmly.

Her mother was the first to rise. She wrapped Jordan in her arms tightly. Jordan cried in her mother's arms. "Why didn't you tell us Jordan? We could've helped you get through this."

Jordan allowed her mother to comfort her. "I just couldn't Mom."

The rest of the family stood in line to hug Jordan, showing their support. Her family's love meant the world to her. It was decided that once Benson made his announcement, Jordan would call a press conference where she would get the chance to tell her side of the story. Her family would stand with her as she gave her statement and answered questions. She still had to face her staff. By the time they arrived, Jordan was emotionally exhausted. She repeated the story again, just as she did for her family, again leaving out a few details for her own protection. Her staff offered their unwavering support, for which she was unbelievably grateful. Late that night, Jordan and Cynthia were alone in their room. Cynthia just held her tightly. She could feel the tension in Jordan's body. Cynthia's heart broke at the inner turmoil and pain inside her partner. She knew the pain that Jordan was experiencing ran far deeper than the stoic candidate would ever show. They both fell into an exhausted sleep.

Cynthia awoke later that night to the sound of sobbing and water running. She was unprepared for what she saw. She opened the door and became overwhelmed by the hot, moist , thick steam that enveloped her. She opened the shower curtain. Jordan was scrubbing and scratching at herself. Her skin was an angry red as she stood under a scalding stream of water.

"It won't come off. The blood. I can't get it off." She was frantically scrubbing her body.

Horrified, Cynthia tried to stop her. "Jordan honey, there's no blood. It's ok."

Jordan flailed her arms wildly, screaming. "No. Don't touch me. You'll get the blood on you." Jordan's hand caught Cynthia's cheekbone, sending her backwards, making her fall. Her head exploding in pain, Cynthia was stunned by Jordan's hysteria. Jordan didn't realize what had happened and was still sobbing and scrubbing under the burning water. Cynthia knew she had to get the water turned off. Jordan wouldn't let her partner near her. The kids came running into the bedroom, hearing the screaming. They banged on the door.

"Cynthia, Mom, what's going on? Is everything ok?"

From inside the bathroom, Cynthia yelled. "Bring me the phone. Your mom's hurt."

Jordan continued to rub her skin raw, and Cynthia's cheekbone was throbbing. Chris knocked on the door, bringing the phone. Cynthia called Jordan's mothers. Janice had been a psychiatric nurse for many years, before retiring.

Frantically, Cynthia spoke to Jordan╬s mother. "Janice, I need y'all to come here now. Jordan's having a breakdown of some sort. I don't know what's going on. I can't reach her. Can you call a doctor you trust to get over here and help her? I don't know what to do. She's out of control completely."

Janice answered. "I know just the right person. We're on our way."

Cynthia then dialed James, struggling to maintain her composure "I need you to get over here immediately. Jordan's having a breakdown. I need your help please!"

Without hesitation, James replied. "I'll be there in ten minutes."

Cynthia called Laura, crying. "Laura, you need to come over now. Jordan's flipped out. "

Laura jumped out of bed. "Oh God Cyn, it's going to be ok. I'll be right over. Take care of her please."

Cynthia tried to come near the distraught woman. She ducked out of Jordan's reach finally and shut off the hot water. Jordan was still scrubbing and sobbing uncontrollably. She fell to her knees, rocking back and forth, muttering incoherently. Cynthia again tried to come near to comfort her. Jordan pushed her away again, screaming. "NO. GET AWAY. LEAVE ME ALONE. YOU'LL GET BLOOD ON YOU. I CAN╬T GET IT OFF." Cynthia stood back crying for her lover who was so lost to her. ╬Let me in baby, please. Let me help you.'

The family started arriving. Janice came into the bathroom. "How long has she been like this?"

Cynthia looked in her direction, a bruise was forming on her face. "For a while. I woke up hearing her crying and the shower running. I don't know how long she was like this before I came in here. I can't get through to her."

Janice looked at her, touching the bruise. "What happened to you?"

Cynthia stiffened. "I'm fine. Let's just try to help her right now. It was an accident. I was trying to shut the water off, and I got in the way of her arm. I really want to concentrate on her right now though."

Janice nodded and walked over to Jordan. "Jordan, it's your mother, can you hear me? It's over honey. You're home." She tried to get near Jordan who pushed her away.

Jordan just rocked back and forth sobbing, muttering. "No, don't leave me baby. Don't die. I need you. No, no , no ,no, no." She continued on, muttering incoherently.

Janice stepped back to talk to Cynthia. "We need to get her sedated and treat her wounds. There is a friend of mine on the way. She's a doctor I worked with at the psychiatric hospital. I've known her for many years. We can trust her."

Everyone else paced nervously in the bedroom, just outside the door. The doctor arrived and James came in with a blanket to subdue Jordan enough to be given a sedative. He wrapped the blanket around her, holding her tightly while she struggled. The doctor gave her a shot in her arm. Soon, the struggle began to diminish and Jordan became unconscious. James lifted her up and carried her into the bed, wrapped in the blanket. Jordan's other mother cried when she saw the state her daughter was in. Laura looked at Cynthia's face for the first time, noticing the bruise. Her heart ached for her best friend's lover. She was torn between her love and loyalty for her friend and the love she held inside for Cynthia. Cynthia sat next to Jordan on the bed, stroking her hair. "My poor, poor baby. You've got so much inside you. Please let me in. Let me help you."

Cynthia filled in the doctor about the circumstances of the last day and how she found Jordan.

The doctor listened intently. "It seems to be a case of post traumatic stress disorder. From what you say, she has been holding everything in for so long. In order to deal with the events, she has pushed her emotions and pain down so far that she hasn't really dealt with them. Having to talk about the events, has brought the pain to the surface again. The stress of the situation probably caused another nightmare. That added to the fact that she's had to repeat the story in front of the main people in her life has caused her to flashback and to breakdown. I recommend that she be hospitalized for at least a week. "

"No." Cynthia turned around to see where the voice came from. Laura continued. "You can't do that to her. She will never get over it. She's worked too hard for this. There are too many unknown variables in that kind of situation. Hospital workers can be bribed and information can easily be leaked. Can we keep her here?"

The doctor thought for a moment. "If she's under constant medical supervision, then ok."

Janice spoke up. "I can take care of that."

Cynthia nodded. "You're right Laura. We need to keep her here, where we can control her environment. We'll all watch over her."

The doctor looked at them. "I'll stop by here at least once a day to check on her. She needs the help of a therapist. Is there any way you can get her to one at least twice a week?"

Cynthia resolved to help her partner, said, "we╬ll do what we have to."

The doctor smiled. "Just make sure she gets the help she needs soon or this will happen again." Cynthia nodded in understanding.

The doctor instructed the group. "Why doesn't everyone go on in the other room? I need to treat Jordan's burns and scrapes.

Janice stepped forward "I'll help."

Laura looked at Cynthia. "We need to talk about the campaign." Cynthia agreed.

Janice looked at them both. "I want to look at your face first Cynthia."

She examined the bruised cheek, feeling the bone to make sure there was no fracture. Satisfied that the injury wasn't extensive, Janice released her. "You can go ahead. You need to get an ice pack on your face. I'll take care of her."

Cynthia turned to Jordan and back to Janice. "Alright. I'll be back in a few."

Cynthia and Laura walked out of the room and into Jordan's office. Jordan's other mother, Elaine, brought Cynthia an ice pack for her face. Cynthia accepted the gesture gratefully. She kissed Elaine on the cheek and the older woman left the two strategists to their work. Cynthia held the ice pack to her injured cheek.

Laura stepped close to Cynthia, her heart breaking. She reached up and touched the bruised face lightly. It was everything she could do to keep her emotions in check. "How did this happen? Are you ok?"

Cynthia nodded. "Jordan didn't know what she was doing. Her arms were just going everywhere and I was trying to turn off the hot water. The back of her hand connected with my cheek. It was an accident, but she╬s going to feel horrible about it. You know how she is. "

Laura held Cynthia tightly as she began to cry. "I know and she's in so much pain right now."

Cynthia pulled back. "So what are we going to do? Should we pull her out of the race?"

Laura shook her head. "No. She'd never forgive us, regardless of our reasons. We have to see this last month through. We certainly can't tell people she's had a mental breakdown. We have to tell them something though. Her absence needs to be explained."

Cynthia nodded and thought for a moment. "I'm going to call her doctor, Misty. She's been Jordan's doctor and friend for many years. We'll tell the press that she is sick. We'll tell them that she is very ill and collapsed. We'll say she has an extreme case of the flu brought on by the stress of the campaign, little sleep, and the training she's been doing for the bike ride. We will say that she is under doctor's orders to remain in bed and that she will make a statement when she is well enough. We'll get Misty to corroborate."

Laura questioned, "Do you think she'll do it? Who's going to speak tomorrow and give Jordan's side of the story?"

Chris walked in the door. "I will. She's my mother, and I'm the eldest. I'm her best representative and I've worked on campaigns since I was a kid. I can talk to the press. It's my responsibility to step in for her."

Cynthia put her arms around Chris, hugging him tightly. "You have a point. If you feel like you can, I think it╬s a great idea." She looked at the young man, thinking how much he was like his mother.

Chris nodded. "I'll go over my statement with you both after the other side makes their announcement."

Laura agreed. "That sounds good. She'll be proud when she realizes what you╬ve done."

He smiled sadly. "Thank you. I'm going to my room. I'll see you in a while."

Laura turned to Cynthia. "You can't leave the house until that bruise disappears. After the charges that are being made, we don't want people to get the impression she's a wife beater. You'll both stay in the house until she is better and your bruise fades enough to be covered with makeup. I don't want anyone speaking to either one of you. If anyone asks, we'll simply tell them that she's ill and that you are by her side."

Cynthia considered what Laura was saying. "You're right. We need to protect her right now. This race isn't over. She's tremendously popular, but if she appears to be mentally unstable, people won't be able to feel like they can depend on her."

Laura sighed tiredly. "Alright, so who do we tell from the campaign? Should we tell the staff what really happened?"

Cynthia looked at her. "I don't know. They all saw her tonight. She wasn't sick. They're going to know better."

Laura nodded. "Ok. We'll tell them. But we won't tell the volunteers. The staff has already signed confidentiality agreements."

Cynthia put her hand on Laura's arm. "So, all we can do now is wait to see what Phil does tomorrow. Let's hope that he calls you back tomorrow and we can get him on tape threatening Jordan. I'm going to go see Jordan now."

Laura placed her hand on Cynthia╬s. "Go ahead. I'm going to go take care of some things. I'll be back a little later. This'll be ok. We'll get through this. Let's just ride this out."

Cynthia agreed. "Thank you for your help Laura. You're a good friend and a great campaign manager."

Laura smiled, her heart torn and aching. "Go check on our girl ok?"

Cynthia walked over to her and kissed her on the cheek and walked back to the room she shared with the love of her life. She opened the door and looked at the woman who was sleeping so peacefully. The doctor had already gone. Janice turned in her direction.

"It's hard to believe this is the same woman who was freaking out a few short hours ago."

Cynthia shook her head. "I know. She's had nightmares for years about this. Nothing like this has ever happened though."

Janice was taken aback by the night╬s proceedings. "I still can't believe she went through that. You know, she didn't write us for months. We were so worried about her. We didn't even know about Maria. How much of this did you really know?"

Cynthia responded. "I've known about the entire situation for many years. She spoke very little about it. I learned more from her outbursts during her nightmares than anything she ever told me. She has this need to be strong, in control at all times. She keeps everything bottled in. It's like she has three emotions; love, happiness, and anger. The only time I saw her pain was during her nightmares. Now, she has a breakdown because of it."

Janice nodded. "You know, she's been like that since she was a kid." She touched the bruise on Cynthia's face. "You've got a hell of a bruise there. Wanna tell me about it?"

"I'm fine. It smarts when I touch it. She didn't mean to do it. She was screaming and I tried to get close to comfort her. She wouldn't let me near her and she was swinging her arms. She caught me with the back of her hand."

"She's going to be devastated when she realizes what she did. She loves you so much."

"Oh I know. Is she going to come out of this ok?" Cynthia began to cry again.

Janice put her arm around Cynthia. "She's going to be ok baby. Her brain needs to calm down. She'll come out of it when she can deal with it."

Cynthia accepted the comfort. "Thanks. Do you mind if I sit with her alone?"

Janice smiled. "No, go ahead. I'll be right outside the door if you need anything. Elaine╬s probably walked a hole in the carpet by now. "

Cynthia stroked Jordan's hair. She noticed the silver chain around Jordan's neck with the silver band attached. She saw the matching ring on Jordan's right hand. She said aloud. "Oh baby. You've been through so much. I wish you would have let this out years ago. Come back to me Jordan. I'll be right here waiting for you."

Daylight came and Laura was sitting in her office when another phone call came from the Benson campaign.

"Laura, its Phil. Has your candidate made a decision? Is she aware that being seen as a murderer will ruin her career for good?"

Laura just shook her head. "You know Phil, you wanting Jordan to buy your silence shows me that your concern doesn't necessarily lie with the best interest of the public."

"Honestly, my main concern is getting my candidate elected. "

"You and I both know that Jordan didn't do anything but defend herself."

Phil laughed. "That may be the case. But, she's kept it hidden so long, it looks pretty suspicious if you ask me. I think the public will agree. You know this business. Perception is more important than the truth. So what's it going to be? Will you be conceding, or do I have to spin...oh I mean spill the news to the public?"

Phil's intentional slip didn't escape Laura's attention. She grinned, knowing everything was on tape. "We're not giving up. We're in a comfortable position and Jordan is the right person for the job and we both know it. The voters know it too. The only way you think you can win is by spreading lies and manipulating and paying off the poor people of Jordan's village." Laura hung up, feeling good. ╬Yes, we got that bastard.' She spoke to the staff, making them aware of what was going to be happening that morning. She also informed the volunteers of Jordan's collapse due to a severe case of the flu and exhaustion. She grabbed the tape of her phone conversation and went back to Jordan's home to prepare for their press conference and to watch the Benson conference. The entire family was in the living room when she arrived.

Laura walked over to James. "How's Jordan doing?"

James looked at her. "She's still asleep. We won't know until she wakes."

Laura smiled. "I've got some good news. I got Phil on tape. He admits that he knows what happened was self defense and that he's lying about it. Thank you so much for hooking up the system. I told everyone that Jordan had the flu and collapsed in exhaustion. Has Cynthia called Misty yet?"

James nodded. "She agreed to make a statement today during the press conference. She's going to say that Jordan collapsed due to a very bad case of the flu and that she is undergoing supervised treatment at home."

Laura responded. "Ok, good. I think we'll be able to save this campaign. Let's just stick to the plan and hope Jordan recovers quickly. Where's Cynthia?"

"She's in with Jordan."

She looked at him. "Thanks." She walked towards the bedroom and quietly opened the door. She found Cynthia asleep curled up against Jordan╬s side, with her head laying on Jordan's shoulder. Laura walked over to her and tapped her lightly, waking her.

Sleepily, she looked at Laura. She quietly said, "hi there. How are things at the headquarters this morning. "

"They're good. I got Phil on tape. I told the staff about Jordan and told the volunteers that Jordan was ill and exhausted. We just need to keep saying that. We'll just keep everything tightly tied down to keep people from finding out the truth about her condition."

Cynthia nodded. "That's great. So all we have to do now is wait and see what Benson says and then plan accordingly."

"Right. I need to go brief Chris on the situation. We'll work on his remarks between press conferences." Laura walked away to find Chris.

Benson Press Conference

Kris Benson stood at the microphone in front of members of the press. "Good morning everyone. I appreciate y'all coming this morning, although calling this press conference was difficult for me. After receiving some troubling information about my opponent that is crucial to this election, I felt I had no choice. The public has a right to know about the criminal acts committed by Jordan O'Connor. In fact, justice demands it. When Ms. O'Connor was in Nicaragua, she became involved with a woman in the village where she was stationed. A little over a year after she arrived, she apparently came home one night to find her lover involved in a romantic situation with two men. This is typical behavior for homosexual couples. It is common knowledge how unstable homosexual relationships are. In a jealous rage, Ms. O'Connor shot the two men and her lover. She was then expelled from the village and had to transfer to Managua. She claimed that she was under threat of physical harm. She met, married her husband and came back to the States a year later. She has escaped prosecution for committing this heinous crime. I love this state and this country and it pains me to see the great people deceived like they've been for so long. I'll be happy to take any questions you might have."

Many reporters raised their hands. Kris picked one. "What proof do you have of this? How did this come to your attention?"

"An investigation was done by a team of private investigators hired by an independent group. They went to Nicaragua and interviewed the people of her village. I have a full report prepared by them for each of you. The group that hired them sent it to me."

Another reporter raised his hand and was called on. "What group hired them?"

"The Organization for the Protection of Families hired them." This was a dummy organization set up by friends of Benson.

Another reporter asked, "Why wasn't she prosecuted?"

Kris answered, "Nicaragua in the eighties wasn't a stable place. I'm sure there was no legal entity that could bring her to justice."

Another question was asked. "Do you think she should be extradited and brought to trial?"

The candidate answered innocently." I think anyone who commits a triple murder should be brought to justice. In any case, murderers don't deserve to represent their fellow countrymen. I do appreciate your questions, that will be all today. As I said, having to bring this out in the open like this pains me a great deal. I've respected Jordan for many years and I am just overcome with such a feeling of betrayal." He walked away from the microphones and was led off by his people.

Back at Jordan's house

Jordan's family was in the living room listening to what was being said. Cynthia paced back and forth fuming. "That son of a bitch. How dare he. He comes across as being so damned innocent. I would like just five minutes alone in a room with that man."

Laura looked at Cynthia. "I know. I know. Jordan is going to be livid when she sees this. Alright gang, let's get ready to call our own conference. Cynthia stay here and take care of her. I'm going to the headquarters with everyone to prepare for the conference. Call Misty and have her meet us there. I'm sure you'll be getting phone calls. Just in case there are any photographers around, stay away from open windows. No one can know about what happened to your face."

Cynthia nodded. " I know. Hold on a minute or two before you leave. I'm going to write down a few things to be included in the statement." She walked off to go find some paper.

Laura turned to Chris. "Are you sure you can handle this?"

Chris said firmly. "Yes."

Kate spoke up. "I want to go with you. You can do the speaking, but I want to stand beside you."

He smiled at his little sister, putting his arm around her. "I think that's a great idea squirt. Go get dressed."

As she was writing down notes, Cynthia's phone rang.

"Damnit Cynthia. What the hell's going on?" It was the State Democratic Chairman.

Cynthia tried to get him to relax. "Calm down. It's all false. We're about to make our own statement. He's lying and we can prove it."

"Well you damn well better. Where the hell's Jordan, let me talk to her. "

"You can't. She collapsed last night and is sleeping. She is extremely ill and exhausted."

The Chairman demanded. "Wake her ass up. I want to talk to her now."

Angrily, Cynthia answered. "I don't give a flying fuck what you want. No one is speaking to Jordan right now. You'll have to get through me and I really don't think you even want to try it."

Taken aback, the previously irate man gave up. "Fine, but you be sure and let her know a lot of people are going to want to talk to her very soon. She sure picked a fine damn time to be sick."

Cynthia ran out of patience. "We've got the situation under control. Excuse me, I have a press conference to plan. Bye."

They both hung up. Her phone kept ringing and ringing from various people with similar comments and questions. She eventually turned it off.

At the headquarters, reporters packed the main room. Jordan's supporters were there to stand behind their representatives. Chris and Kate stood at the front with Laura and James to their sides.

Chris spoke. "You'll have to excuse my mother's absence. Late last night, she collapsed from exhaustion. She has been running at full steam with little sleep and been training for a long distance bike ride in a couple of weeks. She began getting sick about a week ago and instead of slowing down, she continued at her usual, frantic pace. With a high fever, she collapsed. She is at home and is under the care of her personal doctor and my grandmother, a retired nurse. She will be fine and will make her own statement when she is well enough. My family and I stand behind my mother completely. We know she is incapable of the acts she was accused of by her opponent. Furthermore, there are many others, including current and former Presidents, Governors, Mayors, friends, colleagues, and people she has helped who will testify to my mother's honor and peaceful nature. She has been given numerous humanitarian awards for her work to preserve and protect human rights all over the world. She is known for her generous nature towards the needy. There are many stories of my mother giving the shoes on her feet and the coat on her back to someone who needed it. Last night, my mother painfully recounted the events in Nicaragua. I will not tell the entire story. It is hers to tell and she will when she is able. My mother and her wife were attacked in their home in the middle of the night. The men who were killed were members of a drug cartel who targeted my mother because she tried to keep them from placing a foothold in her village. She acted in self defense in order to save her own life and the life of her partner. One of the men tried to shoot my mother and her wife threw herself in front of the bullet that would have killed my mother. My mother has been haunted for over twenty years and her wish was just to be able to deal with her own private pain without having to share it with the entire world. I think most of us have very private issues that we wouldn't want to share with millions of people. My mother values human life and has spent her life trying to stop violence. The fact that she took two lives even in the protection of her own, has haunted her. Mr. Benson knows this. When he received the information, he tried to convince my mother to leave the race in order to buy his silence. We have a recording of a phone conversation made this morning by Mr. Benson's campaign manager. Laura Dodson will now play this."

Laura stepped forward and played the recording of her earlier phone conversation. The press heard Phil admitting that he knew the truth but he would make claims of murder instead. Laura spoke. "As you can see, Mr. Benson's wish was not to simply inform the people of Texas. His goal was to destroy Jordan. He was willing to bend the truth and soil the good name of an innocent woman who cannot defend herself from the grave. This is reprehensible behavior. As Chris said, Jordan is extremely ill, but should be up soon and will make a statement at that time. Her personal doctor and longtime friend, Dr. Misty Jones will give a statement regarding Jordan's health."

Dr. Jones stepped forward. "Jordan is suffering from exhaustion and dehydration compounded by stress of the campaign and family difficulties like the passing of her partner's mother. Jordan tends to be a workaholic and puts work ahead of her own health. When you add these factors to a nasty case of the flu, you have the collapse that she suffered. She is under my personal care at home with the assistance of her mother who is a registered nurse. She is under strict orders for bed rest which are being carried out by her partner. She will make a full recovery very soon and has hopefully learned a lesson about taking care of herself."

Chris stepped forward. "We will now accept questions."

A reporter raised his hand and Chris gave him permission to speak. "Why isn't Cynthia here to speak for her client and partner?"

Chris chuckled. "My mother is extremely ill and Cynthia is sitting by her bedside. She is fiercely protective of my mother. You can try to pull her away for a press conference, but personally I was afraid to."

The people in the room laughed. Another reporter spoke up. "You say your mother told you about the incident last night. Did she know that Mr. Benson would be making his statement today?'

Laura stepped forward. "I received a call from Mr. Benson's campaign manager yesterday afternoon. He offered his silence for Jordan's withdrawal from the campaign. I left the choice up to Jordan. She chose to reveal the most painful experience of her life rather than to give in to blackmail. I've known Jordan since we were both seventeen and she has handled everything in her life with grace and dignity and worked for the benefit of others. This situation is no different."

A reporter asked, "if Ms. O'Connor is so ill, why isn't she in the hospital?"

Misty responded. "Normally, I would insist, but she has wonderful people around her providing her with excellent care. The most important thing she needs right now is rest and believe me, if she were in a hospital that is the last thing she would get."

Cynthia sat at home watching, smiling. She was thrilled with the job her team was doing and the way the plan was working out. She was extremely proud of her children who were a perfect reflection of Jordan. Cynthia had turned off all the phones for the time being, preferring at this time to let Laura and the other campaign staff handle everything. Janice was in with Jordan, who was still sleeping. Cynthia walked into the bedroom and sat next to her sleeping partner.

Janice whispered. "How did the press conference go?"

Cynthia smiled. "It went beautifully. I think we're going to be ok. She may slip a little, but Benson really came out looking badly. He might have had a chance if Phil hadn't been so cocky as to make that call this morning. You should have seen Chris. He looked so strong and proud. He's quite a young man."

Janice agreed. "He's a young man who loves his mother. Those two have a very special connection. She and Kate are very close and share that mystical mother-daughter bond. But she and Chris, even when he was a baby, it was as if they had known one another for thousands of years. They are very much alike and sometimes clash because of it."

Cynthia chuckled, "Oh Lord yes. Those two used to go at it. Even when he was a kid, he thought of himself as a grown up. They used to argue like two adults, back and forth. When she was wrong about something or if she said or did something that he didn't like or made him feel bad, he would tell her. He would say ╬that's not nice. You shouldn't say that.' That would shut her up every time. He held her accountable for her actions."

Janice laughed along with her. Jordan began to stir and open her eyes. Janice looked at her smiling. "Hey there kiddo."

Groggy, Jordan looked around. "What happened? What's going on? I feel like I've been hit by a truck. What time is it?"

Cynthia stroked her lover╬s hair. "Hi baby. You had a rough night so we had to give you a sedative to calm you down. You had a breakdown."

Confused Jordan looked at Cynthia. "What are you talking about? What happened to your face? Where did you get that bruise? I've got to get to the press conference. What time is it?"

Janice calmed her down. "Jordan, you had a breakdown last night. Do you remember anything?" Jordan shook her head.

Janice continued. "Sweetie, Cynthia woke up and found you in a scalding hot shower, scratching and rubbing yourself raw. You were screaming about blood. You were completely out it. I think you were trying to wash the blood off your skin. You have been diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder."

Stunned, Jordan looked at them both. "I don't remember. What about the press conference? Where is everyone? I need to get up."

Janice gently pushed Jordan back down." Jordan you need to relax. It's over. They did a great job. We've got the tapes for you to see later."

Jordan looked at Cynthia. Her voice breaking, afraid of the answer, she asked, "Cynthia, what happened to your face? Where did you get that bruise?"

"Ummm. It happened last night. It was an accident."

Upset, Jordan interrupted her. "Did I do that?"

Cynthia repeated. "It was an accident."

Agitated, Jordan asked again. "Damnit Cynthia, just tell me. Did I do that to your face?"

Cynthia nodded, knowing what her partner's reaction would be. She tried to reassure her. "It was an accident honey. You were swinging your arms around and I got in your way. You didn't meant to do it."

Crying Jordan said, "Oh God. I can't believe I did that to your beautiful face. Oh God, No. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I'm sorry Cyn. Oh God, I'm a monster. I hit you. Go away. You've got to leave me. Pack your suitcases and go. I'm a monster. You can't trust me. Just go. You have to go."

Cynthia cried as well. "No honey. It was an accident. You didn't mean to. I'm not leaving you baby."

Jordan began to rock and sob. "It's happening. The monster's out. I hurt her. I hurt you. Oh God. Go away now, before it happens again."

Cynthia said tearfully, "No, baby, I'm not leaving you."

"Damnit Cynthia GO NOW."

Janice looked at Cynthia. "Why don't you go on in the other room sweetie. She's getting too upset. Call the doctor please." She looked at Jordan. "Now honey, I want you to take this tranquilizer. It'll calm you down."

Obstinately, Jordan said, "No."

Janice looked at her. ╬Sweetheart, you can either take this orally or I can give you a shot."

Jordan took the pill and turned away, pulling the covers up high. "Why can't everyone just leave me alone? I'm just going to hurt them anyway."

"Jordan, that's not true."

"Did you see what I did to her face? What kind of animal does that to someone they love?"

"Jordan, it wasn't you that did that. It was an accident that happened during the episode. It's not a regular behavior for you."

"What if it becomes one?"

Janice shook her head. "That won't happen. You're not that kind of person."

Jordan just looked blankly at the opposite wall. "You have no idea. I'd like to be alone now. I want everyone to go away and just leave me alone. I just want to be alone."

Janice leaned down to kiss Jordan on the cheek. Jordan was unresponsive. "If you need anything, just call me. I'll be right outside the door." She stepped out and found Cynthia crying and pacing outside the door.

Cynthia looked up at Janice. "How is she?"

Janice answered. "She's very upset. I gave her a tranquilizer and that should calm her down. She feels so bad about what happened to you."

"I know. I didn't want to tell her. If I had lied, she would have seen right through it."

Janice nodded. "Yes she would have. Just give her time and she'll be alright. I really do think she's going to come out of this just fine."

Cynthia smiled sadly. "I hope you're right."

Janice reached out and pulled her into a hug. Cynthia held on to her for several long minutes. Exhausted, worried, and broken hearted, she looked up at her mother in law. "Can you go back in there with her? I don't want her to be alone. I'm worried about her and she doesn't want me." Her voice began to break as she said the last few words.

"Sweetie, she doesn't want to be with anyone right now. Having other people in the room just upsets her. I'll go back in there after she falls asleep."

The phones were ringing off the hooks as people were calling asking questions, offering and withdrawing their support. Laura handled all the calls from the press and public officials. Reporters were questioning the Governor and the President on their reactions.

When asked about his opinion of Jordan after learning of her secret, the Governor offered her his support and his concern for her health. "I've known Jordan for many years. I've seen what kind of heart she has. I know she wouldn't take a life for any other reason but to save her own. I am worried about her health. She tends to be a workaholic. I hope my friend has now learned she isn't as young as she used to be and needs to take better care of her health. She has my unwavering support in this election. I can't think of a better representative in the Senate than Jordan O'Connor."

The President made a similar statement. "My first thought is for Jordan's health. I hope she's back out on the campaign road soon. If I know her, she's probably tied down to keep her from getting up and answering these charges personally. As far as her candidacy is concerned, I would love to work with her up here."

That night, Jordan hadn't spoken to anyone or eaten anything. She just laid in her bed, staring at the walls. Various people came and sat with her throughout the day. Cynthia finally worked up the nerve to come in and stay regardless of what Jordan said. She walked through the door and sat on the bed next to her lost partner.

"Hi Jordan, how are you feeling?"

Without looking at her, Jordan said. "I asked you to leave. You should be back in Dallas."

Standing firm, Cynthia said, "I can't do that."

"You can't stay with me. I won't allow it. I won't put you at that risk."

"Well, its not your decision is it?"

Still looking away, Jordan became more upset. "You're not getting it. I hit you. I put a bruise on your face. You can't trust me. I want you to leave me. I don't want you taking any chances."

Crying, Cynthia said. "I love you Jordan, no matter what. I am staying with you now and forever. You can push all you want. You can try and get me to leave, but I'm not going anywhere. We've hit a rough spot and you need help. You need to quit bottling everything up. We're going to get through this campaign and get you a therapist and we're going to deal with this together because that is what you do when you love someone."

"When are you going to do what I want you to do?"

"When you make sense, I might."

"Aren't you afraid I might hit you again?"

"No. You didn't mean to, it was an accident. You were swinging your arms and caught me with the back of your hand. You didn't rear back and slug me. You wouldn't do this in your right mind and I know it."

Jordan turned around, burying her face in Cynthia's lap, wrapping her arms around Cynthia's waist, sobbing. Cynthia held on to her tightly. Cynthia stroked her hair and spoke lovingly to her. "It's ok baby. Let it out. I'm here and I'm staying. I love you Jordan."

"I'm so scared. I feel so out of control and I don't know how to get it back. I'm so sorry I hit you. I'm sorry I hurt your beautiful face. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. Please forgive me. I don't want to hurt you ever. I love you so much. Please don't leave me. I need you. I feel so lost. Help me please."

Cynthia began crying with her. "I'm not leaving. Of course I forgive you sweetheart. I know you didn't mean to do it. We'll get you the help you need. I'm here for you. "

Cynthia and Jordan held one another, crying until falling asleep. The next morning, Jordan awoke with Cynthia still in her arms. She looked at the bruise on her love's face. She ran her fingers along the edges of the purple mark. Her heart burned with the fact that she put the mark on that beautiful face. She knew she would do whatever it took to keep it from happening again. Feeling Jordan's movement, Cynthia opened her eyes.

She held Jordan's hand and pressed it against her lips, saying. "Good morning honey. Are you feeling alright?"

Jordan replied. "I feel better, but not sure how alright I feel."

Cynthia nodded her understanding. "Do you feel like getting out of bed today?"

"Actually, I do. I'd like to see the kids. They didn't see me like this did they?"

Cynthia shook her head. "They came in while you were sleeping but they didn't see you during your episode."

Relieved, Jordan said, "Good, I don't want them to see me like that." Nervously, she took a breath and continued. "I need to tell you something I've never told another person."

Cynthia looked at her curiously, "Ok. Go ahead honey."

Jordan continued. "That night, when the first man was shot, it was during the struggle for the gun. I kept shooting the second man after he was down. I was filled with rage and hate for what he did to Maria. She had such fear and he looked at her like such a pig. He just ripped her nightgown, exposing her. I wanted him to die. I wanted him to feel pain for what he put her through. I kept shooting until the gun was nearly empty. I stood over him and looked in his eyes and put a bullet through his heart."

Cynthia stroke her lover's face. "Oh baby, those were extreme circumstances."

"I know what my intention was. I know what was in my heart. I wanted to kill him and I did. Do you have any idea how much that terrifies me?"

Cynthia looked in Jordan's eyes. "You're not a murderer. You weren't left with much of a choice. You are a kind and wonderful woman. Just look at your kids, and your friends. Look at all the people who are standing up for you right now."

Jordan just held her tightly, breathing in her lover's sweet essence. "I don't know what I'd do without you baby."

Cynthia fingered the ring on Jordan's neck. She held Jordan's hand that wore the ring. "Are these your wedding rings?"

Jordan nodded. "Yes they are. Does me having them on bother you?"

Cynthia smiled. "No honey, it doesn't bother me. I know how much you loved her. I also know how much you love me."

Jordan kissed her on her head. "I do love you. She will always be a part of me, but she is my past and you are my present and my future. As painful as everything was, it led me to you. The thing that keeps me going is the thought that everything has a purpose. If she hadn't been killed, I wouldn't have my kids or you."

"Honey, I saw a box of pictures and things on the bed the other day. Would you tell me about them?"

Jordan nodded and got out of bed. She picked up the box and sat next to Cynthia. She opened the box and pulled out the dress. "This is Maria's wedding dress. I bought this for her on the day we were married. You've seen the rings." She picked up a picture and showed her partner. "This was taken by her parents the day we got married. You should have seen the look on her father╬s face when we got back to the village. I hadn╬t asked him for permission. It was a spontaneous, spur of the moment kind of thing."

Cynthia chuckled. "Oh I can imagine."

Jordan shook her head. "He and I had become friends prior to this point and he reached out and hugged me."

Cynthia looked at the picture and smiled. "Look how young you were. You were beautiful together. You look very happy."

Jordan looked also, smiling. "Oh we were. I was so crazy about her. We were so in love."

Jordan continued to show her pictures and other mementos from her past with Maria. She began to feel better as she shared the memories with Cynthia.

"The first time we kissed was by the river. She had taken me around in the jungle to show me the animals and the flowers. She was very proud of her country. We were walking by the river and holding hands. We were laughing and talking. I was teaching her English. I saw this beautiful white flower, and I picked it up and handed it to her. When I did, I leaned in and kissed her for the first time. We took many walks like that together. We fell more and more in love. It was so sweet and uncomplicated and wonderful."

Cynthia smiled. "It sounds like you were both very lucky. Thank you for sharing this with me."

Jordan looked in her eyes. "I was very lucky then and I am very lucky now. Thank you for allowing me to tell you about this. I feel better talking about her and that time of my life. I feel like I'm releasing something. I feel like I can breathe better."

Cynthia kissed her softly. "Good."

Jordan hugged her tightly. "I want to get out of bed and get back to work."

"Honey, you are going to take a few days off. We told everyone you were sick and collapsed in exhaustion. You have to stay in the house for a few days and so do I, because I am supposed to be by your side taking care of you. I also can't be seen until this bruise heals."

Jordan closed her eyes in shame. "I'm so sorry Cyn. I still can't believe I did that. I swear I will never do that again baby."

Cynthia held Jordan's face in her hands. "Jordan, listen to me. It was an accident. You didn't mean to do it and I know it will never happen again."

"Cynthia honey, I will do whatever I have to do to keep this from happening again. I'm so sorry."

Cynthia smiled. "Jordan, I forgive you. Why don╬t you go take a bath. I╬ll even wash your hair for you." She reached up and tousled Jordan's hair.

Jordan said softly. "I'd like that a lot."

Cynthia stretched out her hand and said, "come on then." Jordan took her hand and allowed herself to be taken to the bathtub. Cynthia turned on the warm water and Jordan sat down. Cynthia poured the jasmine scented body wash onto a sponge and began to run it over Jordan's skin. Cynthia caressed and massaged her lover, as she eased her anxiety. Jordan closed her eyes and concentrated on the Cynthia's hands which slid over her body. She could feel how much Cynthia loved her. Cynthia poured water over Jordan, rinsing her body, and wetting her long black hair. Cynthia smiled as Jordan surrendered to her. Jordan felt her body and her soul relax. Cynthia massaged the shampoo into Jordan's hair. She ran her soapy hands through the long tresses. She poured warm water over Jordan's hair. When she was rinsed, she stepped out of the tub as Cynthia wrapped a thick towel around her. She held Jordan tightly, protectively and Jordan allowed her. Cynthia led her to the bed and sat her down. She sat behind Jordan and began to lovingly brush the long hair.

"How does this feel baby?"

Jordan smiled. "It feels amazing. I love it when you brush my hair."

Cynthia kissed the back of Jordan's neck. "I know you do. I love doing this to you. How are you feeling?"

Jordan leaned back into Cynthia's arms. Cynthia wrapped her arms around her partner. Jordan lifted the blonde's hand to her lips. "I'm feeling much better. You make me feel better. I've got so much churning inside me and you make me calm. You always have."

Cynthia kissed Jordan on the cheek. "Good. I'm glad. You feeling ready to face everyone?"

Jordan nodded. "I think so. I need to find out what's happening with the campaign. I need to find out if I still even have a campaign."

Cynthia moved from her position. "Let me get you something to wear. How about your UT sweats? You can be nice and comfortable. I want you relaxing. I'm going to have the therapist over here. You need to talk about this with a professional, they're going to give you some meds to help you, and you're going to have to learn to deal with stress better. Which means, you are out of commission for a few days. The public thinks that you've got a bad case of the flu. Misty spoke on your behalf at the press conference."

"She lied to the press?"

Cynthia nodded while she searched through Jordan's dresser. "Yes. She cares about you. She told the press you were pushing yourself too hard, had the flu, and that you collapsed in exhaustion with a high fever and that you were under strict orders to rest. We videotaped everything so you can see all that was said. In a few days, you will call a press conference and tell the story yourself."

Jordan pulled the t-shirt over her head. "Have you seen the numbers yet?"

"No, I've been in here with you. Everyone has left us alone."

Jordan pulled Cynthia into her arms. "I'm glad they did. I needed this time with you. You do wonders for me, you know that? Thank you for not leaving when I told you to. I would probably be on my way to a hospital if you had."

Cynthia kissed her softly. "Honey, I couldn't do anything else. You are the most important thing in the world to me. I couldn't leave you again if I tried."

Jordan returned the kiss. "I thank God for that." She stood up and took Cynthia's hand. "Come on darlin'. Let's go see everyone."

Cynthia grinned. "Let me get dressed first please."

Jordan laughed. "You're right. I wasn't thinking. Get dressed."

Cynthia changed and the two women walked out of the room together. Jordan's family was in the living room. Janice looked at her daughter. "Well, well, look who's feeling better."

Jordan walked over to her and kissed her on the cheek. "I really am. Thank you all for your help."

Janice hugged her daughter. "You are quite welcome."

Jordan started walking towards the kitchen. "I need some coffee, badly."

Janice followed her. "Sweetie, no coffee for you anymore. You need to stay away from caffeine. In fact, you need to stay away from caffeine and alcohol. It can trigger an episode. I'll make you some herbal tea. I'll also get you something to eat and your medication." She handed Jordan a Zoloft.

Jordan looked at the pill questioning. "I don't know about taking this. Aren't there some tough side effects?"

Janice nodded. "You could have headaches, anxiety, lack of sex drive, nausea."

Jordan interrupted. "Whoa, hold on a sec here. I don't know if I want to take these."

Janice looked at her. "Jordan, you had a severe episode. You have post traumatic stress disorder. We need to try different things to treat your disorder. Just try it. We won't know its effects for two weeks. The doctor prescribed them. She'll be here later to talk to you. You have to keep up with your exercise regimen, eat healthy, avoid caffeine and alcohol. You also need to reduce your stress level, which is nearly impossible considering your career."

Cynthia walked up behind her. "That's right, which is why I am hiring a yoga instructor to start working with you as soon as the election is over. When we get to D.C., there is an instructor who is contracted with the government who works at the Capital gym. We're going to do everything we can to try and keep your stress levels lower."

Janice smiled. "That's right. We'll just keep trying different things to come up with a course of treatment that works. Cynthia and Laura are arranging your schedule so you can be back in town once a week to see the therapist. You'll begin your sessions with her today." Jordan just nodded her understanding.

Later, Laura, Sarah, Jim, and James arrived at the house to go over the campaign information. Jordan watched the tape of Benson's press conference. She was livid at the things that were said. "That bastard. What kind of man would say those things about an innocent dead woman who can't defend herself. The thought that she would do anything like of that nature is absolutely ludicrous and disgusting. I plan on saying that too. I won't let him get away with it."

Laura played the tape of Phil's phone call. Jordan just shook her head. "What an arrogant ass."

Laura agreed. "Thank God he is. Otherwise their plan might have worked. It was a good idea to bug the phones. Watch our response."

Jordan watched the videotape of her son. Tears of pride welled up in her eyes. She walked over to her son and hugged him tightly. "Thank you Chris. You just blow me away, you and your sister both." She walked over to her daughter and hugged her tightly as well. "Thank you Kate. I'm very proud of you." She continued to watch the video. She listened to the comments made by Phil and the statement from her doctor. She shut the TV off and looked at everyone. "Wow. Y'all did so great. So what's the reaction? What are the volunteers saying? What are people saying?"

Laura smiled. "We've had a great response. Your numbers are lower. But that's inconclusive, because people are confused and not sure what to think. The President, the Governor, and many people are speaking up for and defending you. But people want to hear your side from your own mouth. The fact that you're not making the immediate statements yourself is a little suspicious. Right now, the undecideds are high." Laura handed the research to Jordan. "The fact that we had that tape tears apart Benson's credibility. As you can see, you're still in the lead. Some of the party people have called a little upset. You just need to make an appearance, but not before Cynthia's bruising heals. You don't want to look unstable, so we're going to keep with the story. Her bruise should be gone in a week, tops. At that time, you'll make your statement and get back on the trail. We'll have a more accurate account of the numbers at that time. I'm also scheduling dates at colleges and universities next week. There will be probably be several TV interviews. Just be open and honest like you've always been and I don't think there will be a problem."

Jordan nodded her head in agreement. Cynthia held her hand and looked at her. "It's going to be ok honey. We're going to get through this. We're still leading and can still win."

Jordan looked at everyone in the room. "I can't thank y'all enough. When I needed you the most, you came through for me. You surrounded me and protected me. You've taken care of me and my future when I lost myself for a bit. This campaign will be saved because of you."

For the next few days, Jordan relaxed and began to deal with events from her past with her therapist. Cynthia's bruise healed and it was time for Jordan's press conference. Before the conference, Jordan met with the staff and volunteers of the campaign. "I'd like to thank everyone for their support during this difficult time. First, when the charges were made against me and then my illness. I imagine some of you have been questioning me and my decisions recently. I also imagine some of you have been questioning my integrity. But, you are still here. I thank you for that. I am feeling much better and I am ready to continue into the last month of the campaign at full steam. We're going to win this race, I have no doubt. When we win, it will be because of y'all and the great work you're doing because you care about this state and want to make a difference." The group applauded their candidate.

The press conference was about to begin. The members of the press waited for Jordan to come out of her office and make her statement. Cynthia held her hands and looked in her eyes. "Are you ready for this?"

Jordan smiled at her and brushed the hair off her face. "Yes darlin'. I feel good. I'm ready to finish this race. " She pulled Cynthia into her arms, holding her tightly. "Cyn, I've never loved you more than I do right at this moment."

Cynthia reached out at touched Jordan's face. "I feel exactly the same. I'm proud of you Jordan." She placed her lips against Jordan's. Jordan pulled back, winked, and walked out into the press area, holding Cynthia's hand. Her campaign staff and volunteers stood behind her as she stood at the microphones and podium.

Jordan began. "Thank y'all for coming today. I apologize for my absence and I tried to get back sooner, but when the doctor told me I needed bed rest, my partner here was going to make sure that that's what I did. My partner can be a very determined and protective woman and I'll be darned if I was going to cross her." The members of the press laughed and Jordan looked at Cynthia and grinned.

She then continued. "Well I guess you are wanting the full story from me. I do ask that you be patient with me. It is a very difficult and highly personal story to tell. When I was in college, I had this great need to give back to the world. I just felt something calling me, pulling me. During my last semester, I signed up for the Peace Corps without discussing it with anyone in my family. They weren't thrilled. I was assigned to go to Nicaragua because I had an interest in Latin America. Much of my political studies were on Latin America, in addition to studying Spanish, and Latin American culture. This seemed natural to me as a resident of South Texas. However, being in Nicaragua was much more difficult than I expected. The first thing I saw as I grabbed my bags at the airport was Sandanista soldiers beating on a man, for a reason, I didn't know. On the way from Managua, I saw people lying dead on their stomachs in ditches, blindfolded. I saw Contra rebel soldiers armed to the teeth in jeeps by the side of the road, watching me. When I arrived in my village, which was a couple of hours from Managua, I met the local priest and nuns. I also met the teacher, Maria. Maria and I began to spend time together. She was a couple of years older than me. She was proud, beautiful, loving, kind, and we fell deeply in love. A few months later, I married her in the church in Managua. I was going to bring her back to the U.S. With the civil war going on, the drug cartels ran unchecked. They began to strong arm the villagers in order to get them to grow Coca plants. I tried to stop them. I sabotaged them, and I organized the villagers to resist them. They began to threaten me. I wasn't going to let those threats stop me from what I thought was the right thing to do. I was naive. I thought that simply by doing the right thing, that I would somehow be protected. One night, I woke to find a gun in my face. I turned and there was another gunman standing over Maria. They ordered us to stand and the one that held me forced me to sit in a chair while he pressed a gun to my head. The other man laughed and terrorized Maria. He ripped her nightgown, exposing her. He was going to rape her and make me watch. I'm sure he was going to do the same to me before they killed us. She was so afraid and crying. Something came over me and I began to struggle with the one that held me. We wrestled for the gun and it went off in his chest." Jordan's voice began to break. "The other man pointed the gun at me to shoot me when Maria jumped in front and was shot instead. Before he could shoot me, I grabbed the other gun and shot him in order to save both Maria and myself. I then went over to her and held her as she was dying." Tears fell from her eyes and Cynthia held her hand tightly. She paused for a minute and continued. "She died in my arms and I held her all night until the priest and nuns came and took me to Managua to escape from retaliation. I spent two months living in a convent, never leaving my room, just crying and drinking. I finally snapped out of it, when a little boy from the orphanage went missing and I went to go look for him. Taking care of him gave me a purpose. I met my husband about this time, we were married soon after, and we came back to the states. I've never spoken to anyone about the events until the last couple of days because it is so painful. Even though I had no choice in shooting those men, it still haunts me. The loss of my wife, ripped me apart. I want to say one thing about my opponent's statement last week. Kris Benson is full of nothing but lies. He found out what happened and distorted it to fit his purposes. In doing so, he soiled the name of an innocent woman who cannot defend herself against his slanderous comments. Mr. Benson, what kind of man would do that? What you did, lacks honor and is ungentlemanly. Mr. Benson, you lack integrity and the voters know it. Your conduct is reprehensible and quite frankly, you should be ashamed of yourself. No decent man would act the way you have. Now, I will try to answer any questions y'all have."

A reporter raised his hand and Jordan nodded in his direction. "Ms. O'Connor, you obviously knew the dangers going into Nicaragua at that time. Why did you accept that assignment?"

"Do any of you remember Archbishop Oscar Romero from El Salvador? He was an archbishop who fought for the people. He denounced the violence in his country. He fed the starving people and faced violence on a daily basis. He was assassinated in the middle of his Sunday sermon, where he was speaking out for peace. He was an inspiration to me. The Oscar Romero refugee center was located across the highway from my family's home in the Rio Grande Valley. The refugees there were from El Salvador, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Argentina, etcetera. They all fled persecution. I spent my summers there volunteering, and I was inspired to help the people of Latin America and accepted the risks."

Another reporter questioned. "If it was self defense, why have you kept it hidden for so long?"

"It's the most painful experience of my life. I could barely deal with it myself. I feel tremendous guilt for the loss of life, especially the loss of my wife. I didn't want my family to know, much less the whole world. In order to deal with it, I had to keep it down tightly within myself."

Another reporter spoke. "Don't you think your absence this last week was suspicious?"

"Yes I can see how it would seem that way. I have been working hard on this campaign and training for a long bike ride later this month. I'm just not as young as I used to be. I appreciate Dr. Jones attending to me at my home and speaking for me. She is an old friend and a great doctor."

A local newspaper write asked. "Why hasn't this been reported before? Why hasn't this come out before now?"

Jordan just shrugged. "My other campaigns have been small potatoes. My opponents just didn't have the financial resources to track everything down in Latin America. My guess is that the investigators gave some of the villagers food and money to get information. I really don't know."

Several more reporters questioned Jordan and she answered them honestly. The press conference ended and Jordan went back to the business of the campaign. She spent the rest of the day giving more interviews by phone and receiving many calls of support. Laura gave her a schedule of appearances for the rest of the month.

The next day Jordan headed back out on the road. Her first stop was the University of Texas-Pan American in Edinburg, Texas. People were offering their support of the candidate. She met students and teachers, listening to their stories and ideas. She felt good being back on the road, with things back to normal. She moved north, visiting other universities and colleges. The trip included a short stop in San Antonio, so Jordan could meet with her therapist. Throughout the trip, she continued to answer many questions about her past. A week after getting back on the tour, rain began pouring in South Central Texas while Jordan was on the road. San Antonio and the surrounding areas began flooding. Jordan and her team, worried about their families and their property, went back home.

Jordan's home was on high ground, so she was ok. Several of her volunteers and staff members weren't. Their homes were filled with water as the rain came down and the dams became unable to hold the raging floods. Jordan and her team went into action.

Jordan rallied her volunteers and staff. "We're a family, all of us. So I want those of us who don't have damage to help those who do. For those of you who need a place to stay, some of you can stay in my home. I want those who don't have damage, to open up their homes as well, if they can. Once we take care of each other, we're going to move out into the communities around here and help them. I'm going out to join the rescue effort. I want everyone who can, to come with me. It could be dangerous, so if you don't feel you can come with me, I understand. I would like everyone to gather everything they can, to help one another and the people in the shelters. I am suspending any work on the campaign. Our neighbors are more important than any campaign. I won't be accepting any donations. Anyone who wants to donate, we'll encourage them to donate to the relief. Cynthia and Laura will coordinate everything from my home."

The group dispersed to do their tasks and Jordan walked to her office. She pulled on her long rubber boots and started to walk out with several other people. Cynthia walked up behind her. "Are you alright to do this honey?"

Jordan smiled. "I really am. I feel like I need to do this."

Cynthia kissed her deeply. "Please be careful baby."

Jordan smiled. "I will."

Jordan and a few friends left in tall trucks to assist the victims. As the rain poured on them, Jordan and others rode around, getting people to higher ground. They came upon a car that had apparently tried to cross a low water crossing that was overfilled. It was pushed against a tree and about to be washed away by the raging water. On the roof was a terrified mother and child. Jordan and her rescue crew stopped to help.

Jordan flew into action. "Tie a rope to me, I'm going after them." The crew hooked Jordan up to a rope and she began to carefully move through the fast paced water. She reached the car and tied another rope to the terrified eight year old boy. She then tied a third rope to the mother, to hold onto her while she took the boy to safety. The crew on land pulled her and the boy to the water's edge. They took the boy from her arms when she reached the truck. She went back to the stranded car and retrieved the woman on the roof. Jordan held onto the frightened victim tightly as they walked against the current with the assistance of the rescue crew. With everything going on, Jordan didn't notice the news helicopter above their heads, filming the candidate. She helped people load their belongings into trucks. Her heart broke as she saw families stranded and living in temporary shelters.

She arrived at her house, dirty and exhausted. Her home was filled with friends who were washed out. Cynthia greeted her at the door, pulling her into the bedroom. In an angry, but low voice, Cynthia reprimanded her partner. "Damnit to hell Jordan. I don't know whether to hit you or hug you."

Jordan reached out and pulled Cynthia into her arms, claiming her mouth, pouring all she had into the kiss. Cynthia pulled back breathlessly. "God Jordan, it's good to see you. I've been so worried. I saw you rescue those people on TV. Are you ok?"

Jordan held her tightly. " You saw that? It feels so good to wrap my arms around you. I╬m just fine baby."

Cynthia looked at her, exasperated. "Why do you always have to be the hero?"

Jordan just shrugged. "I don't know. I tend to act before I think." Jordan suddenly changed the subject. "It seems as if we have a houseful."

Cynthia giggled. "We do. Laura, James, Sarah, and Jim do as well. Everyone's being taken care of. Since the rain has stopped, the waters should recede in the next couple of days. Then, the cleanup starts. That rescue you did certainly doesn't hurt you in the polls. The decision to hold off on the campaign to help with the floods is good for your image as well."

"Yeah, but that's not why I did it."

"Oh I know baby. It's just how it is. Go take a shower and change out of those wet clothes. You must be cold. Have you slept?"

"Not much. Maybe a couple of hours."

"Go take a shower and a nap."

Jordan stole a quick kiss. "I think I will. I want to go over everything when I get done. There's so much more to do. I want to help with the recovery."

Cynthia smiled at her. "Don't worry, you will. I want you to go rest before you head back out. Alex called and wanted to know if you want to tour the disaster sites. He's going to be going around in a helicopter. What do you want me to tell him?"

Jordan nodded. "Just let me know when and I'll show up. Can I get something to eat and my medication?"

"I'll let you know when you need to meet him. Go wash that dirty body of yours. I╬ll make you a sandwich."

Jordan laughed and pulled her close. "Why don't you join me?"

Giggling, Cynthia pushed Jordan away. "I don't think so. You seem to be getting back to your old wicked self."

"That's how you like me." Jordan began to walk off and Cynthia slapped her on the ass. Jordan turned around. "tease."

Clean and warm, Jordan talked to her friends who were staying in her home. She met with her main campaign staff about the recovery efforts and the campaign.

Laura said, "I've cancelled all appearances. We've made it known that right now, your concentration is on the flood victims. The press wants you to make a statement. I really think this is all going to help the numbers, especially since you did these same things during the last flood four years ago. It doesn╬t appear to be a political ploy."

Jordan nodded her head. "I'm glad if it helps the numbers. But honestly, I'm not really concerned about any of that right now."

Cynthia spoke. "I know its not your main concern, but we'll just call it a fringe benefit. Alex will be touring the flood damaged areas by helicopter tomorrow, he said he will meet you at the airport at ten a.m. The press will be there and you can make your statement then."

Jordan nodded. "Well, we need to get working on recovery. I want everyone to be helping clean out one another's homes. When we get done with our group, I want to move on to the rest of the city and on to the surrounding areas. I want groups to go in and help their neighbors shovel mud and debris. I want those who don't do that to volunteer at the shelters and to do what they can to donate cleaning products, and other miscellaneous items. Cynthia honey, I'd like for you and Sarah, and Laura to coordinate that for me. Jim I'd like for you and James to help me head up the group that will go out and help people dig their homes out of the mud."

Jim and James both nodded their head in agreement. The rest of the night was spent making phone calls to secure funds and donated items for the shelters filled with families in need.

The next morning Jordan met the Governor at the helicopter landing pad at the airport. Several reporters were there to get statements from the Governor and the candidate.

"Governor Cisneros, do you have any estimates of the damage by the floods?"

Alex responded. "Not yet, it will be a few days, but the primary estimate is in the millions. We will know more once the flood waters recede. I do ask all Texans to help one another in this time of great need. If you were spared damage, and are able, please give your time or financial resources to the local relief centers. FEMA will begin setting up field offices to assist the victims. I will be assessing the damage today. I also urge all Texans to pray for those who have suffered in this difficult time. We are going to make sure the people of Texas get the help they need as soon as possible."

The reporters turned to Jordan. "Ms. O'Connor, due to illness, you missed a week of the campaign and now you have suspended your campaign appearances until further notice, aren't you worried about the effect this will have on the outcome of the race?"

"My main concern is for the people of Texas. This is my state and the people here are my neighbors and my family. I can't in good conscience travel around the state talking about myself when my family is drowning. I will no longer be accepting any new volunteers, nor will I accept any campaign funds for the duration of the campaign. Although I appreciate the thought, there are others who need help more than I do. Just as the Governor did, I urge all Texans to reach out to those who are in need."

Jordan, the Governor, and two FEMA agents got in the chopper and began to fly over the affected areas. Jordan held her breath as she watched large homes floating down the Medina River. Trees and debris littered the rushing water. They flew over the Guadalupe River and watched the water spill over the Canyon Dam for the first time in history. The water, which normally flowed at a rate of four to six hundred feet per second, raged at sixty thousand feet per second. Tears formed in Jordan's eyes as she watched the land she loved so much disappear under the water. The Governor shook his head in disbelief at the destruction. They went to shelters and met the families affected by the disaster. Jordan saw frightened children clinging to their stuffed animals with one arm and their mothers with the other. When they arrived back in San Antonio early that evening, the Governor gave a press conference with Jordan by his side.

The Governor was solemn and determined. "We have a long road ahead of us. The damage is extensive and I will be declaring twenty-nine counties disaster areas. We will be working to the best of our abilities to get people their relief checks as quickly as possible. There will be FEMA agents in all the affected counties. I want all Texans to remember, we've been through this before, and we made it through. We will make it through again, together. Texans can count on me to be with them in this time of need."

Jordan stepped up to give a statement. "I know the task seems daunting right now. The road to recovery is hard to see beneath the waters. I cannot stress enough how important it is for us to be available to offer help to one another at this time. The cleanup is going to be a long and hard task, but we can do it, just as we've done many times before. I will say that some of these recurring problem areas such us the Woodlawn area here in San Antonio are obviously due to the drainage systems that simply cannot handle the load placed upon them. We need to look at drainage solutions to help relieve the situation that happens again and again."

The next day, the waters began to dissipate in San Antonio and Jordan and her team began to assist in the clean up. They shoveled mud and debris while Cynthia and Laura organized a team that delivered cleaning items, water, clothing, and non-perishable food to families and shelters. As the waters receded in other areas, Jordan and her campaign moved to New Braunfels, Medina Valley, Seguin, and the other areas that needed assistance. Some campaign members helped people fill out the necessary forms to get the aid they needed. Jordan spent the last days of the last month of the campaign knee-deep, shoveling mud, and hauling ruined furniture in trucks. She wouldn't have had it any other way.

Next: The conclusion

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