"Do you have the wires?"
When Carol didn't respond, CJ looked up and found her leaning against the door frame with an amused look on her face.
"You're invited for cocktails .."
"The Argentine Embassy .."
"Tomorrow night. He said -"
"He called ?"
"What'd he say?"
"Not to wear anything too tight or too long."
"Nothing too tight or too long? What's that supposed to mean?"
"He didn't say, but I found something online that I think would work," Carol said as she handed her a printout. "What do you think?
"Not too tight, not too long. Perfect."
"Good, because I'm overnighting it. I took the liberty of accepting on your behalf."
"Okay, so all I need is a pair of earrings, a bracelet .."
"A pair of shoes .."
"And a hair appointment."
"They're fitting you in right after the four o'clock briefing. You'll have just enough time to come back here and change. He's sending a car for you at five forty-five."
"Now I feel like Cinderella going to the ball."
"Let's hope he doesn't turn out to be a pumpkin," Carol said with a laugh as she returned to her desk.
"Did he say what the occasion was?"
Following Day 5.40pm
"I don't have time for you, Toby."
"Hey, CJ?" Josh said as he swung into her office. "Do you ha -"
"Don't look at me, don't speak to me, don't even breathe next to me. That goes for both of you," she said as she slipped into the coat Carol was holding up for her.
"What's going on?" Toby asked.
"Cocktails at the Argentine Embassy," Carol supplied, earning herself a glare of her own.
"With the Argentine Economic Attaché?" Josh asked, quick to make the connection.
"It's none of your business, Josh. All you need to know is that I am taking the evening off. And barring .."
"You're taking the evening off? When's the last time that happened?"
"I am taking the evening off and, barring the second coming, I would very much like not to be disturbed while I'm .. doing whatever it is I'm going to be doing. What time is it, Carol?"
"The car will be here in a few minutes."
"He's sending a car?" Josh mouthed as CJ swept from the room.
"He also sent flowers."
Josh darted into the corridor just as CJ disappeared from view.
"CJ, wait up!"
"What is it, Joshua?" she asked irately.
"Go easy on the cabbages, okay? I've heard they give you gas."
Embassy of Argentina, Washington D.C.
"Why didn't you tell me you were the one retiring?"
"Would you have come?"
"I don't know. Why did you invite me?"
"I wanted you to experience this."
"The music, yes. And the dancers, Claudia .."
CJ closed her eyes.
The music was making her heart stir in ways she'd forgotten were even possible. Or maybe it was the way he pronounced her name in Spanish; drawing out the middle vowels and making it sound exotic.
"Oh, I know this piece .." she gasped as the trio started playing something new.
"You know this piece from American movies," he said gently. "From your Mr. Pacino and Mr. Schwarzenegger. It has become commercial." There was a hint of sadness bathed in pride when he added, "there is no artifice, no .. choreography or memorized steps in real Argentine tango. It also does not require a rose between the teeth."
CJ laughed until she realized he was serious, and then found herself mesmerized all over again by his mellifluous voice and dark eyes.
"Argentine tango is the language of lovers. You learn the alphabet, the grammar, the vocabulary, then you speak with your body. That is how you add the phrasing and the nuance."
CJ waved off a waiter and hung on his every word.
"And if you watch very closely, you will see that the dancers cannot predict how their partner will interpret the music. Each one brings their own energy, their own signature, to the dance. There is no leading and no following. It's a physical and emotional experience for both. More like .. completing each other's sentences. Así se baila el tango."
"That was beautiful."
"There is a lot of beauty in the world," he said simply. "I am almost sure you do not see enough of it from your office in the White House."
Almost as if on cue her phone vibrated inside her clutch, and she failed to keep the frustration from her face as she answered.
"I take it duty calls .." her companion said as he stood and pulled her chair out.
"Yes. I'm sorry .."
"I'm sorry, too. You will miss the - never mind. I'll get your coat, and let the driver know he needs to take you back now."
"You asked me earlier why I invited you here tonight," Carlos said as he opened the door to the town car and took her hand in his. "I saw something in your eyes. You felt like a woman in need of something .. beautiful in her life. I know of nothing more beautiful than the tango."
CJ felt herself blush and lost herself in his eyes once again; wanting to make the most of every moment.
"If I were not returning to Argentina, I would make it my mission to give you whatever it is you are looking for. But since I cannot," he added as he pressed a kiss to her hand, "I will wish you well. And hope you find someone who understands you, and gives you the space to be yourself. I hope you find that mutual respect."
His eyes met hers one last time before he ushered her gently into the back seat and closed the door behind her.
As the car pulled away from the embassy, CJ eased the window down and looked back at him standing at the kerb. She raised her arm and gave him a wave, before settling back against the headrest; feeling warmer inside than she had in a very long time.
I can't, in a million years, see CJ doing the Argentine tango, so this had to end where it ended.