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Being the President's daughter isn't easy, but Meg's getting used to it. She's even starting to have a life again―okay, not a normal life, but things are beginning to fall into a routine.
Then it happens―machine guns blast, a van screeches to a halt, and masked men grab Meg and take her away.
Meg doesn't understand what the terrorists want. She doesn't understand how her security was breached. But she does understand one thing―they have no intention of letting her live―and she has no intention of dying.
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Ellen Emerson White started writing about Meg Powers in The President's Daughter and continued in White House Autumn, Long Live the Queen, and Long May She Reign, available from Feiwel and Friends (Fall 2007). When she is not writing, she's watching the Boston Red Sox. She lives in New York City.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
IT WAS ALMOST dark, but Meg kept her sunglasses on because they reminded her of skiing. Despite the fact that it was May, and she was holding a tennis racquet. Her theory had always been—when in doubt, delude oneself.
She lowered her racquet, having served the last in another series of ten balls. A gardener near the fence lifted seven fingers, and she nodded her thanks. One nice thing about living in the White House was that there was always someone around to call lines. She picked up the jug of water she kept on the baseline and drank some, studying the other side of the court. Seven out of ten. Not bad. Then again, eight would be even better. She put the jug down and reached into her ball basket.
Leaning back to serve, she noticed that everyone around the court—her Secret Service agents, National Park Service people, a couple of reporters—was standing much straighter, indicating that the President was somewhere nearby.
Meg grinned. "Is it my imagination, or is there like, a head of state behind me?" she asked without turning around.
Her mother laughed. "The serve looks good."
"I don’t know, I’m trying to get more on it." Meg walked back to where her mother was standing, the number of agents—and general onlookers—having swelled considerably. "Do you feel like hitting a few?" she asked, already pretty sure of the answer.
Her mother looked down at her dress and high heels. "It would lack elegance, Meg."
Meg nodded. It had been quite a while since her mother had had enough energy to play. People were actually only supposed to
wear white soled shoes on the court—but, she had a sneaking suspicion that no one would have the nerve to call the President out on that one. Then, she checked the bottom of her sneakers, suddenly noticing that the soles were white, grey and black—and no one had bugged her about it, either.
"Besides," her mother said, "I expect your father and brothers are waiting for us."
Meg looked up at the sky to try and guess what time it was— not that she was exactly Nature Girl—then remembered that she had on a watch. She hated watches, but apparently hers was some kind of security thing, because the Secret Service had requested that she keep it on at all times. She had never wanted to pursue the issue further, and even though she’d been wearing it for well over a year now, she still wasn’t used to it.
"High time for dinner," her mother said.
Past seven. "Yeah," Meg said, and leaned down to pick up some of her tennis balls.
Her mother bent gracefully for one as Meg scooped up six or seven, using her sweatshirt front as a sort of pouch. "Is this quality time we have going here?" she asked, dropping her balls into the yellow metal basket.
Her mother picked up another one, holding it with her index finger and thumb. "That appears to be the case, yes."
"Madam President?" one of her aides said, standing near the entrance to the courts.
Her mother sighed, handing Meg the ball. "Excuse me."
Meg watched her stride over and confer with the aide—as well as Winnie, the deputy chief of staff, who had just shown up, recognizing the Presidential expression of interested concern even from behind. Her mother sure knew how to walk. It was too dignified to be a sweep, but too fast to be stately. The influence of too damned many Katharine Hepburn movies, Meg’s father had always said.
"Statuesque" was the word the mainstream media was inclined to use. Meg just liked to sing "Twentieth Century Fox" at her.
Her brother Steven—who was almost fourteen—either swaggered or slouched; her brother Neal—who was nine—bounced, mostly. Her father—well, he just walked. Occasionally, he hurried. Meg, personally, would either slink or slog. Sometimes, to drive her parents crazy, she and Steven would shuffle. They were big on scuffing, too.
"Pretty cool," her mother said, unexpectedly next to her again.
Meg stopped in the middle of her tennis racquet guitar solo. Morrison and the guys would have to wait. "Um, just singing."
"So I heard," her mother said.
Meg flushed and took off her sunglasses, going over to pick up the rest of her tennis balls.
When she was finished, they walked towards the White House— with the Secret Service in tow, of course—along the cement oval leading to the South Portico, passing commemorative trees like the Jimmy Carter Cedar of Lebanon and the Lyndon B. Johnson Willow Oak. Their dog, Kirby invariably used the George W. Bush Cutleaf Silver Maple. Steven had encouraged this.
In June, there was supposed to be a ceremony during which her mother was going to plant a Japanese Tree Lilac, and Meg was hoping that it would be scheduled after school was out—mostly, so that she could have the fun of watching the President incompetently wield a shovel during the ground-breaking.
It felt as though they were walking unusually slowly, and Meg glanced over at her mother. "You look tired."
Her mother shrugged. "Busy day, that’s all."
Maybe. Meg kept looking at her, noticing the slight hunch to her left side. Since—well, Meg tried to think of it as "the accident," because the phrase "assassination attempt" made her sick—anyway, even though it had been over seven months, her mother was often
in obvious pain, and almost always exhausted. "Um, how do you feel?" Meg asked.
Her mother’s posture changed, the hunch disappearing. "Fine."
Meg nodded—although she didn’t buy it for a second.
"So," her mother said, gesturing back towards the tennis court. "You’re certainly practicing non-stop these days."
"I don’t know." Meg grinned. "Did you read Save Me the Waltz?"
Her mother smiled, too. "It’s my assumption that you’re hoping to play at school this fall?"
She was hoping, actually, to start signing up for a few USTA/ Mid-Atlantic junior tournaments and see if she could build a decent ranking. Yeah, she’d have to go to lower-level open tournaments first, but there seemed to be several L5 tournaments within easy driving distance every weekend, and if she won a couple of them, she could move up to—"Um, yeah," she said. "Sort of." Although her parents had been very strongly pushing her to go to Harvard, with Yale and Princeton as fallback choices—getting in to college wasn’t exactly an issue for the President’s daughter, even if she were a verifiable cretin—she had decided on Williams, instead. Small, very academic, surrounded by Berkshire ski resorts. Her kind of place.
The skiing, anyway.
"Did you know," her mother said conversationally, "that professional tennis players change their clothes right in the middle of the locker room?" She paused. "In front of everyone?"
As arguments went, that one wasn’t bad. "Oh, you’re just trying to scare me," Meg said.
Her mother shrugged. "I have it on excellent authority."
"I wouldn’t worry," Meg said. "It’s not like I’m good enough." She carefully didn’t add a "yet," but her mother’s look at her was so penetrating that she must have heard it, anyway.
"Well," her mother said, and nodded hello to the Marine guards on duty, as they went through the South Entrance.
For that matter, Meg nodded, too—but they were so busy being alert that they probably didn’t notice.
She followed her mother through the Diplomatic Reception Room to the Ground Floor Corridor, which was red-carpeted, with an impressive series of arches forming the ceiling, and portraits of First Ladies on the walls. It was going to be pretty funny to have her father—who always looked uncomfortable in pictures under the best of circumstances—hanging there someday.
Her father’s press secretary, Preston, was coming down the hall with a couple aides, heading towards the East Wing, and he stopped short, giving her mother a crisp salute.
Her mother smiled, and returned it. "At ease, Mr. Fielding."
"Thank you, Madam Prez." He winked at Meg. "Get that serve percentage over eighty?"
Here and there. "Almost," Meg said.
"Good going." He touched his own throat, where a green silk tie was knotted, indicating the white towel around her neck. "Sort of a fashion risk."
"Everyone in Milan is wearing these," Meg said. And most of the haute couture houses were thinking of coming on board with the style, too.
Preston laughed, continuing on his way with his assistants.
Meg watched him go. Official job aside, what he really was, was her whole family’s best friend—and about as cool as it was possible to be. He and her father made an incongruous pair—Preston, the sleek, suave young black guy; her father, very traditional and WASPy. "Is he like, your favorite person in the world who isn’t related to you?" she asked.
"Yes," her mother said, and stepped into the private elevator. "Going up?"
"Oh." If she were alone, Meg would definitely have taken the stairs—in lieu of more interesting enemies, she had always made a
practice of fighting calories—but, with her mother being tired and all—"I mean, yeah," she said.
They rode up to the third floor—her family spent a lot of time hanging out in the solarium, which had its own small kitchenette, the biggest television in the Residence, an extensive library of music and movies out in the main corridor, and some extremely spectacular views.
Steven and Neal were on one of the couches, watching an old Simpsons episode, since they were both entirely addicted to the show—and, as it happened, Meg was pretty fond of it herself. In fact, she and her brothers wasted so much time slouching in front of reruns—and Red Sox games—that her parents found it rather unnerving, and often tried to limit their viewing time, with absolutely no success. And her father was not terribly convincing on the subject, since he was such a big Boston fan, that he had been known to do things like leave Kennedy Center events early, in order to catch the last few innings.
As a rule, Meg was more inclined to watch particular netwo...
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