Disclaimer: These characters and this narrative are mine, so there is nothing to disclaim in this here story. Besides, if you are still reading my stuff, you already know the drill - you will need an open mind to read it. If you find something you think needs disclaiming, you are more than welcome to let me know. It won't change anything, but it may make you feel better. Ugliness will earn you a smack to the back of your head.
Thanks: To my truly awesome Beta Team - Phil, Mac and Jeanne - they have certainly gone above and beyond for this story... 26 months of reading for mistakes. There was a point when I know each of you thought it was never going to end... because I wondered the same thing . Thanks, ya'll... this would have been much more difficult process without your efforts. You guys ROCK!
Author's Notes: So, it did actually take 26 months of writing to complete this sucker, and it's so much more than I ever envisioned it would be? because I certainly never expected it to be almost 700 pages when all was said and done. Still, I think it was worth the effort - we ended up with a good solid story and some great characters. And who knows? We may see them again someday.
The Storyteller's Cardinal Rule is in effect.
Everyone has heard of guardian angels - we probably have the best PR department in the world. On the other hand, they're also very good about keeping the true nature of our job out of the press, so to speak. Oh, don't misunderstand - some guardian angels do exactly what is advertised. That is the job of a few... to uphold the myth that we are there for the protection of mankind. Most guardian angels don't protect - they offer hope to the scared and the lonely and the wounded. But for a few even that is not their primary function.
No, for a very few guardian angels, their job is to be there at a crucial time in their charge's life. They are supposed to guide and help a person make the right choice. Only sometimes, they're not in the right place at the right time and that's where I come in.
My job is clean up. When the guardian angel misses their opportunity, my job is to determine if the charge can be salvaged in spite of the guardian screw-up or if there is another choice that can be made or another opportunity offered.
This is the story of one such charge.
"Jim, I don't care what you have to do - just make it happen!" The woman snapped her phone shut with an aggrieved sigh and turned to the entourage standing next to her. "Opal, grab my day planner and meet me in the office. We have to rearrange a few things. Barbara, I need you to get Sen. Reynolds on the phone, please and make sure Kent is available to pick Adam up from school. Luke, I'd kill for a fresh cup of coffee," nodding in satisfaction when her assistant and aides scattered. Then she walked into her office and slid behind her desk, kicking off her shoes and removing her jacket before settling into the day's work.
Let me stop a minute here and bring you up to speed. I think you need to understand at least a little of the woman whose life I am now in charge of trying to salvage.
Charisma Tagherty is a smart, successful woman who has spent a lifetime in politics and as a Senator is counted as one of the up-and-coming leaders of not only her party, but the nation as well. She is as well-known for her charitable causes as she is for her political platform. She has worked hard to establish her reputation as a savvy politician, a smart businesswoman and a caring humanitarian and has succeeded beyond most expectations - except her own. She demanded success from herself and has done everything she could to ensure the results she was looking for.
Doesn't sound like she needs to be salvaged much, does it?
Except she is a liar - a liar of the highest order... beyond what you would expect from someone who spent their life as a politician. Charisma Tagherty has spent a lifetime lying to herself and it is destroying her and those who mean the most to her... even the unacknowledged ones.
You see, a person can only pretend for so long - then the lies become real and one can no longer distinguish the lies from truth... happiness from make-believe. The up side to that is that there is happiness - whether real or simply perceived - for a little while. The down side is eventually it will all come crashing down like a house of cards and what is left in its wake is generally disastrous to everyone touched by the aftershocks.
The course she is on now is headed for catastrophe unless I can help her be honest. Let me take you back to the beginning. Then you'll be able to see just exactly where we went wrong.
"You're gonna do big things, Charisma. I have faith in you," Patrick Tagherty said to his five-year-old daughter with a smile.
"What kind of things, Daddy?" Big blue eyes gazed up into eyes just like hers.
"Anything you want, baby. You're smart enough to be anything you wanna be."
Patrick smiled at her wide-eyed innocence. "Really."
Charisma Tagherty was the fourth child and only daughter of Patrick and Okasa Tagherty. Doted on by her three older brothers as well as her parents, Charisma lived up to her name in personality as well as looks. Beautiful with the dark hair and skin tone she'd inherited from her mother and her father's sparkling blue eyes, already she knew how to charm people. She was one of those who, it seemed, was destined to easily succeed throughout her life.
And so it went for Charisma, beautiful and gifted, she went through life always popular? always successful. Junior high school introduced her to politics and she decided then that would be her chosen profession. She liked the power and the elevated status it gave her, and she learned how to wield that power to accomplish the things she set out to achieve.
By the time she was a senior in high school, Charisma was well-versed in the art of illusion and presentation and she knew what image to show to the world at large. She was popular - president of the Student Government Association, a cheerleader, a track star, participated in glee club and band and spent her summers overseas as an exchange student, courtesy of her father's contacts. Popular, but unwilling to sacrifice what little free time she had to having a regular boyfriend.
It suited her parents - none of the boys she hung out with in her social circle were good enough for their little girl, and as long as she had friends and didn't isolate herself from everyone, they didn't see a problem with not rushing into a relationship that probably wouldn't last beyond high school anyway. Charisma had big dreams - Presidential dreams - there was no reason to give them up so early in her life for a tumble with someone she wouldn't remember when their five year class reunion rolled around.
Me again - sorry, but I need to break in here for a moment. In fairness to everyone involved in this situation... angels and humans alike... they were absolutely right. Any involvement on Charisma's part with anyone at this point would have been detrimental to her dreams. You see, fair or not, women are judged by a different set of standards than men are - they always have been. They are valued for their beauty and innocence and morality, while men are judged by their prowess and cunning and conquests. I'm not saying it's right - God knows we've had more than our share of shit to clean up because of these archaic ideals - but it is the truth nonetheless.
What we didn't know then... what we wouldn't know until much later was there was a far bigger reason Charisma Tagherty wasn't interested in the whole dating scene. But we will get to that... eventually.
Let me move time forward just a little bit - to Charisma's foray into college. This was the first time her guardian angel failed her... something I didn't learn of until much, *much* later.
"Are you sure about this, princess? It's not too late...."
"Oh, Daddy... don't be silly. This is going to be so awesome."
"Awesome, huh?" opening his arms and wrapping her in a tight embrace. "You think you're gonna like being a college kid?" chuckling when he felt her head bob up and down against his chest. He kissed the top of her dark head. "All right, just don't forget to give your mama and me a call now and then, okay? Let us know how you're doing and what's going on."
"I will, Daddy." She tilted her head back and looked up at him with bright, blue eyes. "Thank you for believing in me. It means everything."
"Always, Tiger... you know that. You really are going to do great things, and I'll be able to say I knew you when." He added the last with a crooked smile.
Charisma snorted at him and patted his chest as she pulled out of the hug. "You'll be able to say you *changed* me when."
Patrick guffawed and Charisma gave him her mother's smile, blinding in its intensity. "You're right, me wee lassie," he agreed, affecting a thick brogue. "I'm sure all the newspapers are waitin' for that particular scoop too. I'll have your mama go lookin' for some naked baby pictures."
Now she swatted at his arm hard. "You better not!" horrified at the thought. Charisma knew her mother... the woman had pictures of everything. She didn't want her naked baby butt out on the front page of every newspaper in the country for the whole world to stare at. She covered her eyes with her hand. "God... talk about embarrassing."
"It'd be one way to meet the press."
Charisma snorted. "Yes, but that doesn't make it a good way."
Patrick laughed aloud. "No, but it would certainly be memorable," ducking when she swung at him again. "Parent abuse! Parent abuse!" he squawked around his laughter as he tried to slide out of her reach....
... then stopped abruptly when a blonde head cautiously poked around the doorway and halted at the commotion inside the dorm room.
"Excuse me... I was looking for my dorm room and..." she consulted the slip of paper in her hand, "... and someone named Charisma Tagherty."
"I'm Charisma," the young woman offered, pushing her father to one side to extend her hand to the owner of the blonde hair. "And you are...?" wondering if the eyes hidden behind the glasses were really as green as they appeared to be or if it was just the lighting in the room.
"Brianna... Brianna Walker - your new roommate." She took Charisma's hand and allowed the other woman to pull her into the room.
"It's really nice to meet you, Brianna Brianna Walker," Charisma offered with an impish smile. "This big oaf is my father, Patrick. I promise he doesn't bite."
"Hey!" glaring at Charisma before giving Brianna a dashing smile. "Only if you ask nice, lassie," Patrick corrected, laying on the brogue as thickly as he could manage.
"Only until Mama hears him offer," Charisma countered, rolling her eyes in Brianna's direction and causing Brianna to smother her chuckle behind her hand. Patrick huffed.
"Well, I can see I'm not needed here." He turned to Brianna and held out his hand, watching with some amusement as she hesitated momentarily before taking it in a firm grasp. "It's been very nice to meet you, Ms Walker. I hope Charisma doesn't make you as crazy as she has her mother and me for the past eighteen years. You're gonna have your hands full with this one."
"HA! Don't believe a word of it, Brianna Brianna. I was the one bright spot of sanity in a world laden with testosterone."
"And you," Patrick turned back to Charisma. "Behave... and call your mother."
"Yes, Daddy." Charisma leaned forward and gave Patrick a hug, only to find herself in a near-crushing embrace. Brianna moved further into the room to give the two at the door a modicum of privacy.
"I'll miss you, princess. Just remember that I believe in you."
Charisma kissed his cheek. "Bye, Daddy... love you."
"Love you too, princess."
Charisma sighed as she closed the door behind Patrick after he left. Then she turned and looked at her erstwhile roommate. "Sorry about that," she apologized, waving her hand towards the door. "I didn't expect him to hang around so long, but I couldn't tell him no when he asked to come with me."
Brianna nodded. "You seem pretty close," was her comment.
"He's my best friend," Charisma confirmed. "He's always believed in me. My mother too, but in a different way." She shrugged. "I guess I've always been a 'Daddy's Girl'."