The White House lawn was packed. The press was literally everywhere. An assassination attempt on Al Gore, the Vice President of the United States was all the entire world was talking about. He and First Lady Hillary Rodham were giving a speech when a rogue shooter got off three shots at their podium. Mass chaos ensured and the Vice President was whisked away to Bethesda and Hillary was taken straight back to the White House and put on lockdown after seeing the staff physician.
President Clinton couldn’t move fast enough. The shock momentarily froze him in his place, but the moment Hillary’s name was uttered she was all he could think about. Assurances that she was fine and that her senior security detail was with her did nothing to abate his worry.
Long legs briskly carried him up the stairs to the residence and down the corridor to the Lincoln bedroom where he was told she was. Two Secret Service Agents immediately stepped out of the way letting him pass thru. “Hillary?” he called out, voice unsteady and weak. “Honey?”
Peter, her senior agent, came out of the bathroom holding her once beige coat and matching dress. “Sir…Mr. President …she’s uh…” unshed tears flooded his eyes. “She needs you.”
“Thank you.” Bill nodded curtly and proceeded into the bathroom Peter had just exited. “Hillary?”
She was standing outside of the shower, watching as the spray of water pelted the tile on the floor below. Still clad in her slip, drying blood coating the some of the lace of the hem, she turned to face him. Hands red, face and neck and hair catching some of the blood splatter as well.
“Oh my God, Hillary.” He approached her slowly. “Are you okay?” he asked, slowly and softly. His eyes darting over her, taking in every inch he could see. “You’re not hurt? Physically?”
She simply shook her head. “Al.” she sobbed. “Oh, Bill, there was so much…” she looked down at her shaking hands. “I don’t think he’s going to..”
“Shh.” He reached for her hands and steadied them in his. “He’s in the best possible hands right now. Things are different than when Kennedy was…” he stopped himself short of saying the word: assassination. “This is different.”
Hillary nodded and took a slightly uneven breath. “I know,” she sniffed. “I can’t...” she looked at the shower and then back at Bill. “I can’t…the blood…”
He cradled her face in his hands. “It’s okay, I’m here,” he assured her. “I’m right here, honey. Just tell me what you need.”
She squeezed her eyes closed, hot tears falling down her face. “I need to get…I need to get it off of me!” she cried in frustration.
“I’ll help you,” he said, softly. “I’m here, you’re safe.”
Hillary knew he was right. She was safe with him. Maybe too safe. The anger from his betrayal was still fresh and she didn’t want to fall back into old patterns. But right now, she needed him. She slowly opened her eyes and looked up into his worried face. “Okay,” she softly agreed. “Thank you.”
“You don’t have to thank me,” he softly caressed her cheek with his thumb. “I love you. I love you so much. I’ve been going crazy with worry. Even though they told me you were okay, I couldn’t…I couldn’t believe it until I saw you with my own eyes.”
Hillary closed her eyes again and she melted against him. “I love you too.” Because she did love him. Despite everything she desperately loved him. And the sobs came again. Uncontrollable and bubbling out of her like a fountain. This had been her biggest fear when Bill became president. And now it had happened to Al.
He wrapped her safely and securely in his arms. Wanting to take away everything that happened in the past three hours. He gently rubbed her back, soothing her even further. “I love you,” he told her, again. “Let me take care of you. Let’s get you cleaned up and then we’ll get you something to help you sleep.” He pressed a kiss to her temple. “Does that sound okay?”
She nodded against him, a soft yes was whispered, and she broke their embrace. She wanted to wash it all away. The entire day.
Bill helped her undress. He was gentle and delicate in his actions. Their separation was a difficult one because they still had to interact. “I was so scared. They told me two people were hit during the speech and all I could think about was you. You don’t know how relieved I am. I mean, I hate that Al was shot and Evans, but I’m so relieved.”
He stripped down as well and then stepped into the shower, reaching out his hand and guiding her inside. It was an incredibly intimate moment. Not physically even though they were both naked, but because everything was so raw. She was letting him take care of her.
The water began to cascade over her, hitting the darkened blood and turning it lighter as it mingled with the water and ran off her skin. Her stomach seesawed at the sight. Bill reached out to steady her. “Close your eyes,” he instructed, reaching for the soap and the washcloth. “I’ll wash you off.”
“It all happened so quickly, Billy,” she said, closing her eyes. “Evans was hit and still managed to get me to safety.”
“He has my undying gratitude.” Ever so carefully he began to wash her. Comfortable silence lingered between them and the thudding in his heart began to slow. She was safe and physically unharmed. And for that he would forever be grateful. “You have no idea how guilty I feel.”
Hillary opened her eyes to look up at him. “Guilty? Why?”
“Because I was an absolute idiot. Having an affair with an intern, a woman half my age. I’ve been stupid and you deserve so much better.”
“Bill, can we not do this right now?”
“I could have lost you today,” he continued. “You could have been shot and killed.”
“Yes, I could have, but that has nothing to do with your affair. You made that choice. Today someone else made a choice to fire a gun multiple times in my direction. It likely had nothing to do with you. Stop making everything about you. You fucked up. You’re sorry. I know.”
“I’m sorry,” he apologized. “I just wanted you to know how sorry I am.”
“I’m trying, Hillary.”
She was quiet. Things between them had been difficult. This affair was different from the rest. This one had played out on the national stage. It cut deeper and was slower to heal. It was been months and it still just fucking hurt.
“Here, let me wash your hair.” He reached for the shampoo bottle and poured some into his hand. “I want you to lie down and rest.”
“I’m so worried about Al and about Tipper. Their kids.”
He began to work a lather into her blonde tresses. “I know you are, I am too, but you need to take care of yourself as well.”
“I know.” she agreed. “Peter said he would let me know the updates as he received them. I promised Chelsea I would call her back as soon as I could. She was so scared.”
“I talked to Chelsea on my way here.” he told her. “She was still shaken, but she was much calmer now. Dorothy and I agreed that she should stay with her for right now because of the press. As soon as it lifts a little we’ll get her in here.”
Hillary leaned back into the warm water to rinse her hair. “As much as I want her here with me this is no situation for a sixteen year old girl. She’s safer with mom out of reach.”
“She understands that.” he reached for the conditioner. “Right now, we’re all on the same page, you need to be taken care of.”
“I can’t relax here, Bill,” she told him. The White House residence still made her uneasy. Everything that happened always had a way of rushing back to her every time she was alone with Bill in the residence. “Can’t I go home?”
Hillary had been spending the majority of her time across the street at Blair House. She was much more comfortable there.
He gave her a sympathetic smile. “How does Camp David sound? Would you be more comfortable there?”
Hillary mulled it over. “I don’t know, Bill,” she sighed. “But I can’t stay here with you. I can’t do it.”
“I understand,” he whispered. “You need to do what’s best for you.”
Skipping out on her detail was much easier than she anticipated. She simply told them she was going to bed and then made her way out of a side entrance and down the street, blending in with some of the other aides and politicians making their way home for the evening. It didn’t take long for her to reach her destination. She knocked softly on the door and a few moments later it opened.
“Hillary.” John said, stunned. “What are you doing here?”
“I didn’t know where else to go.”