Her mother: "All the news stations are calling you Cinderella. Why didn't you wear flats?"
The White House chief of staff: "Way to go?the president will be late, but you will have your shoes."
He is such a jerk, Melanie had thought.
Buckey had finally returned to Marine One with Melanie's muddy black pump in his hand. The president thought the whole episode was hilarious. As they lifted off from the South Lawn of the White House and flew over the Washington Mall, Melanie had felt as if she'd been transported to a different world. The Tidal Basin glistened in the morning sun, and the Washington Monument jutted out of the ground. The flags that surrounded it flapped in the wind below her window, and the tops of the buildings on the mall looked like doll houses.
"It's pretty spectacular, isn't it?" the president had said.
"Amazing," Melanie had replied, not moving her eyes from the sights below.
"How could that have been eleven years ago?" Melanie thought, not realizing she'd muttered to herself until one of Charlotte's agents spoke to her.
"Ms. Kingston, is everything all right?"
"I'm sorry; I'm fine. Losing it, perhaps, but fine. Is she upstairs yet?"
"Yes. She said to tell you to come on in."
Melanie walked past the table that had been set for two with fancy china and flatware and out to the Truman balcony. Charlotte had installed heaters so they could sit out there year-round. Melanie sat in her usual spot and pulled a blanket over her lap. She took in the view and tried to work herself into a positive frame of mind for Charlotte's benefit. The Washington Monument was directly in front of her, lit to perfection by carefully placed spotlights and brightened by the full moon reflecting off a blanket of fresh snow. The Lincoln Memorial could be seen off to her right, and if she leaned forward, she could make out the top of the Capitol to her left.
One of the president's dogs put her two front paws in Melanie's lap and started kissing her face. She leaned back and let the dog lick her.
Melanie had never planned to spend her entire adult life working for the president. When people gazed at the wall of presidential commissions that hung in her West Wing office, she used to feel proud. Now, they embarrassed her.
With the thirty-five-pound dog now sitting in her lap, Melanie practiced what she would say to Charlotte that night: "Charlotte, I can't run your reelection campaign, because you can't run for reelection."