Chapter 1: Matt
“Are you listening, Matt? You can’t keep letting your emotions affect your work like this! You need to sort out your situation with Daisy before you make a mistake that will hurt you, your job, and the rest of the staff.” Nadine turns and starts walking back to her office.
“Okay, okay, Nadine! I get it mom!” Matt’s breath hitches as he realizes what he’s just said to the Chief of Staff, to his boss.
Nadine jolts to a stop. She turns sharply on her heel and Matt cringes as the heel snaps. She falls into the wall, hitting her bare shoulder against a picture frame. Matt steadies the frame and helps Nadine stand up straight.
“You okay?” He questions tentatively.
Nadine just regards him with a silent, appraising gaze. She nods almost imperceptibly, a slight smile playing at the corner of her lips. “Get back to work, Mahoney.”
“Yes mo- ma'am.” He practically runs down the hall, eager to leave the embarrassing situation.
Nadine chuckles and bends down to pick up her broken heel. She hesitates for a second before kicking off her shoes and carrying them with her paperwork into her office. Mom indeed. Well, she'd have to give that some thought.
Chapter 2: Jay
Nadine looked up as someone knocked on her door.
“Hey, Nadine, you got a minute?” It was Jay.
“Yeah, what do you need?” She took off her glasses, glad for a chance to peel her eyes from the report she was reading on her computer.
“It’s, um, it’s kind of a personal matter.”
“Ah, I see,” Nadine left her desk to sit beside him on the couch. “What’s wrong?”
“To be honest, I’m not entirely sure.”
“Is it Chloe?” Nadine tried not to let worries invade her senses, but she loved that little girl so much.
“No, but I almost wish it were.”
Nadine didn’t respond, instead choosing to give her friend a moment to gather his thoughts. She rather liked his contemplativeness. It made things easier for her not only in her job, but also in her relationship with him.
He sighed, “Something’s up with Abby. We’ve been fighting more than usual, and last night, I really thought she was going to just walk away. She had this, wild look in her eye and it looked like she was this close,” he held his finger an inch apart, “to opening the front door and leaving. I -” he paused and put his head in his hands. “I don’t know what to do and she won’t talk to me.”
Nadine placed a tentative hand on his shoulder. “Well, you’ve been pretty busy here lately. Have you truly had a chance to sit down and have a long, heart-to-heart with your wife? And maybe a little more?” She tilted her head suggestively. “Not that it’s any of my business, but I would think that both are pretty important in a marriage.”
“No, you’re right. I’ve been so preoccupied with everything going on here, I haven’t really taken the time to just be with her. To be there as her husband and friend.”
“So, then maybe you should try to do that tonight?” Nadine raised an eyebrow and glanced toward the door meaningfully.
“Oh, you mean right now?”
“Yes. Go spend time with your wife Jay. I can handle things without you for the rest of the day.”
Jay grinned and took Nadine’s hand, the sincerity in his voice unmistakable, “I don’t know what I would do without you Nadine. You’re - you’re like the big sister I never had.”
They both stood and Jay leaned down to kiss her cheek gently. “Thanks. I owe you one.”
“Just go.” She laughed and pointed out her door. Jay nodded and sprinted out.
Nadine returned to her desk. “Huh, sister,” she muttered thoughtfully.
Chapter 3: Blake
“Man, I screwed up bad the other day.” The corner of Nadine’s mouth lifted as she heard Matt whispering to Blake. The two young men were standing in front of the elevator, waiting for the Secretary to arrive. Nadine had walked up to join them, but hearing Matt’s lowered voice caused her to hang back and linger in the doorway. Apparently neither of them had noticed her.
“What did you do?” Blake’s voice was tense, as if he were mentally preparing himself to have to fix whatever Matt did.
“Calm down buddy, it’s nothing like that.”
“What did you do?” Blake repeated, in a more intrigued tone.
“I called Nadine ‘mom’ to her face.”
“You did what?!” Nadine could envision Blake’s bug-eyed stare and it almost made her laugh.
The back of Matt’s head moved up and down as he nodded. “I called her mom. We were arguing about- something- and I kind of yelled at her and said, ‘I get it mom!’”
“What did Nadine do?” Blake’s voice was a high-pitched whisper now.
“That’s the funny thing. She didn’t do anything. She just looked at me with that serious expression, the one that looks like she’s trying to figure out if she could beat you in a fight.”
“Oh, that look. I call it her ‘cougar glare'.”
They were quiet for a minute and Nadine was about to join them when Blake spoke up again, “But to call her ‘mom’ to her face. Whew, that takes a whole new level of courage.”
“It was hardly courage, man. We were arguing.”
“But still. I don’t think I could tell her something like that and continue with my will to live.”
“But you agree with me right? She’s like ‘Office Mom’.”
“She feels more like an aunt to me, but that’s just because I think of the Secretary as a mother figure in my life.”
Nadine decided she’d heard enough. The seventh floor was no place for sentimental, familial fantasies about your coworkers. She approached the men and tapped them both on the shoulders.
“Holy -!” Matt yelled and jumped back at the same time Blake shouted something unintelligible and leapt into the air. The elevator dinged and the Secretary of State stepped off, puzzled as to why her Chief of Staff was standing before her with a triumphant smile while her personal assistant and speech writer looked like a lion was about to rip into them. She shrugged as Nadine walked with her began telling her the schedule for the day. Matt and Blake fell into step behind the two women.
“Do you think she heard us?” Blake whispered.
Nadine turned her head ever so slightly and looked at them from the corner of her eye. She raised her eyebrows slightly, never faltering in her steps or words.
Matt rubbed his hand across his forehead. “Oh man, we are so screwed.”
Chapter 4: Daisy
Daisy giggled as she threw back another shot. Sure, she would regret this tomorrow but for now she wanted to have some fun. No, she wanted to get her mind off recent events. She had just broken up with Oliver, who she really did like, then hooked up with Win on election night, and made a pass at Matt, again. She didn’t want to think about the embarrassment she felt, and she didn’t want to think about men. Except maybe for that cute one smiling at her across the bar.
Suddenly her view of big blue eyes was replaced by one of big brown eyes, much closer. Daisy sighed, “Nadine.”
The smaller woman nodded; lips pressed together. She hoisted herself onto the barstool next to her coworker. “Are you okay, Daisy?” Nadine propped her elbow on the counter.
“Yep.” Daisy nodded and took another shot.
“Uh-huh,” Nadine wasn’t convinced. “How many of those have you had?”
Daisy stood and smoothed her form-fitting dress, intending to approach Blue Eyes, “Enough.” She downed another one and took a step, but Nadine’s slender hand stopped her.
“I have no control over your personal life, but whatever is going on, that,” Nadine nodded towards Blue Eyes, “won’t fix it. Will you just try talking to me before running to the arms of a stranger?”
Daisy played with an empty shot glass and side-eyed her boss. This tiny woman in front of her now didn’t look like the one who’d been bossing her around not four hours before. Now she was wearing a casual maroon blouse and a pair of really nice jeans.
Daisy sighed and told Nadine everything. She was surprised when Nadine didn’t cut her off and she realised just how much she appreciated having someone to listen to her troubles for once. When she finished her slurred anecdote, Daisy grabbed her purse, “Well, that’s it. That’s what’s wrong. Now you know and I’m going home.” She stumbled slightly, a continued testament to just how much she had drunk.
Nadine was at her side in an instant, “Not like this, at least, not by yourself. Come on, I’ll help you.” Nadine called an Uber and they went outside to wait.
In the back of Jose’s sedan, Daisy sighed heavily. Nadine rubbed her back soothingly, “You’ll get through. We all have our rough patches. It won’t last forever.”
Daisy nodded, and then the dam burst. She was sobbing, muttering unintelligible words.
“Hey, is she okay?” Jose adjusted his rearview mirror so he could see Nadine who waved him off.
“It’s okay, honey. It’s alright.” Nadine continued to move her palm in slow, circular motions on Daisy’s back, holding her close with her other arm.
Daisy’s sobs subsided just in time, as they pulled up at her apartment. Nadine helped her inside and tried to get her situated for bed, but the younger woman continued rambling about men and family. When Nadine finally persuaded her to change into pajamas, Daisy was going on about how unhelpful her mother was about relationships.
“She just, gets attached to every guy I bring home, and then mad at me when we break up. Like it’s my fault or something,” she said loudly. Nadine was standing outside the bedroom door, waiting for Daisy to open it.
“Uh-huh.” She said, trying to still be polite.
The door flew open, and Daisy tried to storm into her kitchen. Nadine gently turned her around and pushed her towards her bed.
“Nope. You need to get some rest; we have a big day tomorrow and need you at full power.”
Daisy flopped onto her bed and said something into her pillow. She giggled and lifted her head.
“What was that?” Nadine asked.
Daisy giggled again, “I just said that you’re a good mom.”
Nadine hesitated, but only for half a second, before pulling the covers up and tucking Daisy in.
“Thank you,” Daisy said, her voice already overcome by sleep.
Nadine nodded, still puzzled by Daisy’s admission. She wasn’t sure how much more she could take of being called the office mom.
Chapter 5: Elizabeth
“Madam Secretary?” Nadine knocked softly on Elizabeth’s heavy wooden door.
“Yes?” The Secretary lifted her blonde head from the papers she was signing and looked at Nadine through her glasses.
“I was wondering if I could talk to you for a minute?”
Elizabeth sighed and leaned back in her chair. “If it’s about the meeting Chen has been after me to set up, just keep stalling him.”
Nadine shook her dark curls, “No, it’s more of a, um, slightly personal matter.”
Elizabeth sat up straight, this was new. Nadine had made it very clear in the past that she liked to keep her personal life private. She stood from her desk and motioned Nadine to sit with her on the couch.
“What is it?”
“Well, I wanted to ask you if I’m coming off as too motherly, or even too familial.”
Elizabeth furrowed her brow, “What do you-”
Nadine cut her off, “In the past two weeks I have discovered that I apparently have two children, a brother and a nephew.”
Elizabeth chuckled, “I see.” She leaned into the couch pillow positioned behind her. “But wait, who’s the nephew?”
“Blake. But only because you trump me as the mother-figure in his life.”
“Oho.” Elizabeth shook her head and laughed again. “Brother?”
“Jay, the sentimental fool.”
“Why did you bring this to me? Do you want me to tell them to stop thinking of you in ‘familial’ ways? That might be a bit hard.”
Nadine shrunk into the cushion, “I suppose you’re right. I guess – I guess I came to see if you could offer any advice?” She squeezed her eyes shut in embarrassment. The couch began vibrating and loud peals of laughter caused her to peek one eye open. She looked at her boss, at the Secretary of State, who was laughing exuberantly. Nadine released an exasperated sigh and threw her hands into the air.
“Just, forget I said anything. Sorry to have bothered you, ma’am.” She rose and made as if to leave but Elizabeth’s voice interrupted her.
“No, don’t leave yet Nadine, come back.”
She returned reluctantly to the couch.
Elizabeth kept a straight face as she looked Nadine directly in the eye. “I think it would be very hard for me to offer advice in this area, considering the way I see you.”
Nadine groaned inwardly, “And just how might that be, ma’am?”
Elizabeth scanned her Chief of Staff’s face, “You can’t guess?”
“I believe I can.”
“Good, because I never had a sister, and I wouldn’t want to lose the one I might have finally found so soon.”
Nadine took a breath, “I suppose, I do consider you sister-like, when we’re not in a professional setting.”
“See? It’s not that hard to admit.” Elizabeth took Nadine’s hands, “Does it really bother you that much?”
“No.” It was a small no, accompanied by averted eyes and bowed head. Nadine looked up and a smile played on her lips, “I guess I kind of like it. But don’t you dare tell anyone I said that!”
Elizabeth chuckled again, “I won’t. So, what’s this about Blake thinking of me as his mother?”
Chapter 6: Nadine
Sorry for the late update, college was a hassle last week. I don't know if this final chapter compliments the others well, but here it is.
Russell Jackson stormed onto the Seventh Floor. He marched straight up to Blake’s desk outside Elizabeth’s office. Blake stood and moved to block him. “The Secretary is in a meeting with Minister Chen. She has left instructions not to be bothered.”
“I don’t give a crap about her instructions.” Russell moved as though to push past Blake, but a voice stopped him in his tracks.
He turned and faced the brown eyes glaring at him.
“What?” He snapped.
“You heard Blake, she’s busy.” Nadine paused, “You can, of course, talk to me.” She raised an eyebrow.
Russell rolled his eyes, “Seriously?”
Nadine nodded tensely. She didn’t really want to deal with her White House counterpart, but there was something to be said for working with your comrades instead of against them.
Russell shrugged, “Fine. But not out here.” He raised an eyebrow at Nadine, indicating that she lead the way.
They walked into the conference room and no sooner had the door shut than Russell began shouting again. He waved his manila folder in front of Nadine’s face.
“I can’t believe you and Elizabeth let him handle something this big on his own! Surely the two of you, well maybe not Bess, but you, as seasoned as you are, should have known better! Whose stupid idea was this?”
“To what, exactly, are you referring, Russell?”
His eyes bugged. “Are you kidding? You really haven’t seen?”
Nadine kept her expression passive as she shook her head. Russell shoved the folder into her hands. She opened it and only had to read a few lines to see what Russell was getting at. What should have been Matt’s carefully compiled notes on the Islamabad Capital Territory Prohibition of Employment of Children was most certainly not that. Nadine struggled to keep up her passive façade and she felt her neck begin to heat. She closed the folder and cleared her throat, “It looks like Matt mixed up the letters he wrote to his girlfriend with his notes.”
“You think?” Russell roared, irritated at Nadine’s lack of obvious concern. “This file was passed out to everyone voting on the bill and now Senators Morejon, Kaine and Feinstein are reconsidering because they think that this,” he snatched the folder back, “is just some sick game and that the State Department isn’t actually serious about this!”
“And you couldn’t just send someone over to get the correct file, why?”
“I came personally to make sure that you, or Bess, fire Mahoney! And that press secretary, Grant. There’s too much drama between the both of them and they need to either realize that there is no room for their goofing off or you and Bess need to sack them!”
Nadine’s gaze was steely, but she didn’t respond.
“Did you hear me? You need to fire Matt Mahoney! He’s useless!”
He was in her face now.
“I don’t see how you have the right to demand that, Russell.”
He barked out a harsh laugh, “Don’t have the right. What is it? Mommy doesn’t want to lose her adopted little boy like she lost her real son?”
“What did you just say to me?”
“You heard me Russell, get out.”
“I think you’re overstepping there, Nadine.”
“I’m overstepping?” She scoffed and began to raise her voice to match his. “YOU CAN’T JUST WALK IN HERE AND DEMAND THAT I FIRE THE SECRETARY’S SPEECH WRITER BECAUSE HE MIXED UP A FILE! AND YOU CERTAINLY CAN’T WALK IN HERE AND MAKE ACCUSATIONS ABOUT MY EMOTIONAL STATUS AND MY SONS! NOW GET OUT!”
She flung the door open and watched as Russell stormed out. “I still expect the correct file by 2pm this afternoon!” he snarled over his shoulder.
“You’ll have it!” Nadine flung at his back. She huffed in frustration and fully exited the conference room. She looked around at the other staffers, who hastily returned to their work. Then she looked to her left and saw the Secretary, Blake and Matt peering from around the door to Elizabeth’s office.
“We’re not ever going to speak of this again.” Nadine’s tone was serious and warning. The others just nodded and retreated into Elizabeth’s office. Nadine straightened her shoulders and walked down to her own office, smirking a little. She knew Russell Jackson would think twice next time before provoking the Seventh Floor matron.