This really wasn't where I intended to take this - but this is where it went and I've made my peace with that.
In my head this is really a love letter to Margaret.
Also, if you watch Six Meetings Before Lunch really carefully, Margaret can be seen bobbing her head to the music when CJ is doing her thing, and both she and Donna seem really into it.
We only got to hear a piece of The Jackal on the show, but the last two minutes of it (mostly instrumental) are really something, even if you're not into urban jazz.
Friday, November 10th 2006
"You weren't joking …" Donna said as she surveyed the mess.
"I promise there's a bed in here somewhere .."
Together they made quick work of shuttling papers, shoe boxes, and other miscellaneous items into the living room; sharing personal stories about Leo and speculating about how Mallory and Margaret were doing.
It was quiet, busy work that they both needed, but something was niggling at Donna.
"CJ?" she asked, as she followed her friend into the master bedroom and watched her hang up several of the evening gowns they'd brought from the guest room.
"Can I ask you something?"
"Were you and Danny arguing because of me?"
It was not lost on Donna that CJ hesitated slightly and didn't turn around.
"Why would you think that?"
"He looked pretty upset."
CJ mumbled something incoherent.
"Yes?" came the guarded response.
"Yes he was annoyed?"
"Yes as in I'm responding to you calling my name."
CJ turned slowly to face her.
"I understand if you don't want to talk about it but .. just so you know .. your ears are blushing," Donna deadpanned as she turned and left the room.
CJ hung the last few dresses up and took a deep breath as she walked into the living room.
It took CJ a moment to realize that Donna was on the phone with someone.
"Do you want me to come over?"
Donna listened intently to the person at the other end of the line and wrapped up the call a moment later.
"I have to go."
"Was that .."
"Margaret," Donna nodded. "I have to go, CJ."
"Of course. I'll go with you."
Donna shook her head as she looked at her watch.
"It's getting close to midnight. You have a busy day tomorrow."
"I'm going with you. Just .. give me a minute to call the car and get changed."
"It's me .." Donna whispered as she tapped her fingernails against the door to the apartment.
Margaret's eyes grew wide as she caught sight of CJ's security detail, and wiped her hand nervously against her skirt as she stepped aside to let them in.
CJ glanced around the apartment when they'd been cleared to enter.
"Can I get you a coffee?" Margaret asked, her hands tugging at her clothes.
"Sure." CJ said, knowing she'd regret caffeine later, but understanding that this was a coping mechanism for the woman fidgeting in front of her.
She was complimenting Margaret on her eclectic decor as she followed her into the kitchen, when Margaret turned abruptly and barred her way.
"I'll bring the coffee out to you."
But CJ had already seen through to the kitchen; the only evidence in an otherwise immaculate apartment that Margaret was struggling.
Unwashed dishes, unpacked groceries, a laundry basket on the kitchen table.
She had started to backtrack when a baby's cry pierced the air.
Margaret's lip quivered and CJ could see panic reflected in her eyes.
"I'll be right back," she said before disappearing down the hall.
CJ felt Donna slide into the doorway next to her and they surveyed the kitchen together.
"Should we?" CJ nodded towards the dishes in the sink.
"I don't know .."
CJ shot her a surprised look, clearly not the answer she'd been expecting.
"You think we should .." Donna started tentatively.
"I do, actually," CJ said as she shrugged off her jacket, rolled up her sleeves, and stepped up to the sink.
When Donna hovered uncertainly, CJ tossed "maybe you can start by making the coffee?" over her shoulder.
They worked in companionable silence, and by the time Margaret was back from settling the baby, the kitchen had been straightened out, Donna and CJ were sitting on a couch in the living room, and three steaming cups of coffee were lined up next to each other.
Margaret perched on the edge of an armchair and seemed to be chewing something over in her brain.
"I know I've never said who her father is," she said suddenly. "And I'm still not going to say .." she added as Donna sat up a little straighter. "But she's not Leo's."
"Glad we could settle that part." CJ said awkwardly.
Margaret nodded sharply, and went back to fidgeting with her skirt.
CJ had just opened her mouth to say something when the baby started to cry again.
"She's uh .. I can't get her to settle today," Margaret said apologetically.
"Babies feel their mother's stress. What?" Donna ignored the withering look from CJ. "They do .."
It occurred to CJ that she had never seen the baby.
"Can I see her?"
Margaret looked surprised but stood up and led the way to the nursery.
"Hi .." CJ mouthed softly over the edge of the crib.
The baby stopped crying for a moment, and took the proffered finger.
CJ wasn't sure what she'd been expecting, but the sight of a mop of red curls took her breath away.
Something she wasn't willing to give a name to tugged at her heartstrings with such ferocity that she dislodged her finger without intending to. It merely served to startle the baby, who promptly started to cry again.
Margaret swooped down and picked her up, peering at her intently.
"You want to breastfeed again, don't you?"
"I'll .. uh .. wait in the other room."
CJ beat a hasty retreat.
"She's beautiful .." she said to Donna in hushed awe as she rejoined her in the living room.
Donna smiled and agreed.
"She is. Want another coffee?"
CJ looked at her watch and shrugged.
"It's morning in Europe. I guess we can pretend we're having breakfast and go into work jacked up on caffeine, right?"
They were on their third cup when Margaret appeared in the room with the baby in her arms, looking exhausted and stressed out.
"She won't go down."
"What can we do to help?"
Margaret shifted from one foot to the other uncomfortably, and CJ recognized the signs that something was percolating in her assistant's brain.
"She likes The Jackal," Margaret said as she thrust the baby towards her.
"Once, when I was pregnant and she wouldn't stop kicking, I played The Jackal and she calmed down."
"Well .. uh .. okay." CJ looked around uncomfortably. "You want me to .."
"Do The Jackal," Margaret said nodding firmly as she handed the baby over and moved over to her CD collection.
CJ's mind spun.
It wasn't just that she hadn't done this in several years, but she wasn't sure how to make this work with a fussy baby in her arms.
"Maybe you should hold her .." she said, handing her back as Margaret handed Donna a remote control.
"Press the button when she's ready to start," Margaret said as she settled back on the couch and placed the baby facing forward on her knee.
"Some anti-anxiety lighting here, please?" CJ said in Donna's general direction.
"Dim the lights," Margaret whispered urgently to Donna.
Donna obliged and then slid onto the couch next to her.
CJ took a deep breath. Slipped out of her shoes and turned her back on the people in the room.
She raised a finger into the air to let Donna know she was ready, turned, and lowered herself to the baby's eye level.
Did I ever tell you about that man who changed my life?
The one I thought, oh my Lord, when I saw him walk in the back of that bar
All tall and lean with them broad shoulders, sweeeet lips,
I knew that I had .. died and gone to .. Chocolate Heaven
The baby chortled, drawing smiles from everyone.
The familiarity of the song's opening theme washed over CJ, and she found it wasn't as hard as she'd anticipated to find her groove.
He had a real deep voice, and white pearly teeth
And his shoe was always shining
Long slender fingers manicured perfectly
The man wore 800-dollar Italian suits, straight from
I dunno, what would they call it
Milan or Rome or someplace like that?
I knew it wasn't local
I said, I got to get next to that
I haven't seen him in a long time
My man was so fine
He could get any good girl into trouble
The baby's eyes widened as CJ moved close to her face again.
You asked me me what his name was?
Well. . . The Jackal. The Jackal. Say.. The Jackal
CJ watched the baby's delight as the words the jackal repeated over and over.
But she watched her mother, too, and knew where her thoughts had gone.
"Leo loved this song," Margaret said quietly to nobody in particular.
CJ toggled the baby's toes to see what she would do, and the little one giggled in a way that made CJ melt.
He was fat back cat cool
Like a Friday afternoon martini
Chillin' at a quarter after 5
Twist of lime, Coke on the side
The brother loved the high life
Had a Ph.D. in street stride
They called him The Jackal
She hammed it up just a little more than usual, to see if she could get more from her, and was delighted when the little one responded.
He was big Mack daddy super black stylin'
A diamonds in the back Cadillac
Fur-lined boards, white wall wheels
Cruise control, built for speed, chrome on evray-thang
And the stereophonic speakers, though he really didn't need them
When they called him. . . The Jackal
Say .. The Jackal
The words repeated, and she watched Margaret again; bobbing her head to the rhythm and bouncing the baby up and down on her knees.
Fly boy was in the buttermilk, hard
Livin' fast, livin' large, 6 foot 4 and not an ounce of fat!
She touched the baby's nose with her finger, and the baby rewarded her with a gleeful shriek.
When women asked, 'is you a frown Cat?'
He said 'My dear, I'm more that that, I'm the frownest of the frown
And in case you .. hadn't known, they call me The Jackal.
CJ knew the upcoming part was Donna's favourite, and lifting the baby off Margaret's lap, angled the little one towards Donna and gave her the floor.
He served an 18-year bid
First Riker's Island
Then they hid him in the state penitentiary
Said the charge was Grand Larceny
That was 1975, and today .. if he's still alive
He'd be living in the park
The brother whose claim to fame
was that they called him The Jackal
The Jackal .. The Jackal
Say .. The Jackal
Donna had gone to town and the baby had gurgled happily throughout, but CJ could tell she was losing steam.
The sound of Ronny Jordan's hybrid guitar filled the apartment as she cradled the baby close and swayed with her; covering her little ears against the sound of the more strident instruments moving to the forefront of the track.
Out of the corner of her eye she could see Donna and Margaret swaying to the music, too, and the two minutes of the song evolved into a shared moment of love and loss and grief for all of them.
She was hyperaware of the moment when the baby started to fade, and held her a little closer; threading fingers through her curls, gently teasing out a tangle or two, and then turning her face up and running her index finger from the baby's forehead to the bridge of her nose.
The little one's eyes fluttered closed, her breathing gradually evened out, and CJ realized that Margaret had turned down the volume.
"She's asleep," she whispered to her. "I'm going to .."
Margaret nodded as she picked up the coffee cups and headed for the kitchen.
CJ placed the baby in her crib and stood there watching her for a moment.
"Leo really loved that song," a voice said from the doorway.
"I'm glad we got to do it for him together one last time tonight."
"Me too," Margaret said, before nodding sharply and leaving the room.
CJ cast another look at the baby in the crib, marvelled at her perfection, and stroked her hair; the unbidden thoughts back with a vengeance.
"One day .." she said as she risked touching the auburn curls one last time.