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Flower Settings & Golden China

Posted on Thu Dec 16th, 2021 @ 9:29pm by Mrs. Tara Helman (*)

Mission: So Help Me, God
Location: Vermeil Room, White House Residence
Timeline: Friday, January 13, 9:30am

After her husband departed Blair House for a day of meetings at the Eisenhower Executive Building, Tara scooted her two children out of the door and into the secret service Suburban which would take them both to their first day of school at the prestigious Sidwell Friends School, an institution which would cost their family $40,000 a year, but was very familiar with the needs of presidential children. After they were gone, she ran up to apply her makeup and was off in her own Suburban toward the White House.

Today was the day when she would step into the White House with the White House Chief Usher, her Chief of Staff, and her selected Social Secretary to plan an initial schedule for events at the White House during her husband's first 100 days. After that she would meet with the head of the Presidential Protection Detail and, following that, a lunch with the current First Lady.

Tara was used to making decisions like this. She used to be her husband's Chief of Staff, after all, when he was Mayor of Bloomington. When they moved to the Governor's Mansion, she served as his advisor, a much smaller role that would allow her to focus on their family life. Now she was playing White House Hostess and she would be busier than ever.

The Secret Service Suburban moved down the small stretch of Pennsylvania avenue to the other side of the White House and turned right onto the drive that lead to the East Wing, the working place of the First Ladies of the United States. After the SUV came to a stop and the door was opened for her, she stepped out, thanking the agent as she walked around the fountain and up the stairs. She was sure all of this would soon become normal, but right now it was surreal. She was walking into the White House without so much as a security check.

She smiled at several staffers that worked for Mrs. Santos and followed her lead agent down the eastern colonnade and into the residence proper. Soon she took a left into the Vermeil Room, named after the gold-plated silver pieces kept there. During formal occasions if served as the ladies sitting room, so she had selected it as a meeting place for today. A polished wooden table had been set up to expedite this, though it hadn't been her idea.

Now that she was in the White House, her security departed from her immediate presence and she was left in the room alone. Sighing, she enjoyed the solitude as she walked slowly around the well-appointed space. On the walls were hung pictures of former First Ladies, elegantly placed between cream walls and cabinets full of gold-plated silver china. She took in the beauty of the place before looking more specifically at the paintings. Abigail Adams; Dolly Madison; Elenore Roosevelt; Jackie Kennedy; Nancy Reagan; Abby Bartlet. These faces somehow made her feel inferior. How would she make her mark in this grand and historic house?

She heard the door opened and turned to see who it was right as her Chief of Staff entered wearing a black blazer with a purple silk blouse underneath. The woman was beautiful with golden locks which approached her dark brown routes. Clearly she needed a new dye job, but was far too busy to take the time. Grace Garner was a political staffer in New York who moved to Indiana to work as Tara's Chief of Staff. Now, six years and a nasty divorce later, she had come to Washington to serve as Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff to the First Lady. She'd been running around this town since November like a chicken with her head cut off, trying to build relationships for the coming administration. She held a bundle of papers in a folder which she promptly unloaded onto the table.

"Sorry, ma'am, I didn't want to be late." she said, taking a deep breath. Clearly she had been hurrying. "I didn't anticipate the Secret Service hold-up."

"It's okay, Grace. I understand." Tara responded with a smile, lacing her fingers in front of herself. She wore a cream colored dress that matched the room, with golden flowers stitched on it. "A little different than Indianapolis, huh?"

Grace rolled her eyes and gave another sigh. She was dramatic, and this job would give her all the chance she would need to ratchet up the drama.

"Oh my goodness, Mrs. Helman, tell me about it! These Washington people are insane. They take everything so seriously and only want to talk about politics!"

Tara laughed throwing her head back and shaking her shoulders. It was amazing how different people could behave depending on where one was. They weren't in the midwest anymore. There were more city-folk, for democrats, and less small talk.

"I think you'll get used to it. You're very resilient, you know."

"Isn't it my job to comfort and reassure you?" Grace asked, smiling at her boss. They knew each other well and had come to be close friends outside of their professional relationship.

"We take turns, Grace." Tara said, grabbing the woman's hands. "We take turns."

Just as she finished her sentence, the door to the Vermeil Room began to open. They released each other's hands and turned about face to see whoever was coming in. A man in his sixties with glasses and a bald head and a fifty-something woman with mousy brown hair and a leopard print dress entered, each of them with big smiles plastered on their faces; The White House Chief Usher and the designated Social Secretary, two very important roles working with the First Lady.

"Ma'am, this is Theodore Harrington, responsible for managing the Executive Residence and grounds, and of course you know Rebecca Silverstone." Grace said, moving to give introductions professionally.

"Of course I know Rebecca. Good to see you. So glad you agreed to come aboard." Tara said, shaking Rebecca's hand, and then she moved on to the diminutive bald man. "And Mr. Harrington. So nice to meet you."

"Please, ma'am, call me Theo. The First Family is on a first name basis with all White House Staff. It's meant to make you and your family feel more at home here. The White House is part home, part office space, part event center, and part museum. We want you to feel more comfortable, and familiarity and informality help." the man said, shaking her hand and then clasping his hands in front of him.

"I see. Well, nice to meet you then, Theo." Tara said with a grin. "You've served in the White House for how long again?"

"Your husband will be my third President, ma'am. I was appointed by President Bartlet in 2001. Before that I served for ten years as a housekeeper here as well." he said in response. "You'll find there's a lot of institutional memory in the residential staff that you won't find in the political apparatus. Your Executive Chef, your Social Secretary, Chiefs of Staff, advisors, and communications officers are all brand new, but most everyone else has been here for a while. I hope we serve you well."

"I'm sure you will, Theo." Tara said, then turned to look at each other person. "Well, shall we get down to business then?"

The group moved over to the dark wooden table which had undoubtedly been sat in there by Theo's people in preparation for a meeting. If Tara had known they would have done it, she would have just held the meeting in a more conventional place. Alas, these people were used to accommodating people like her. She smiled despite it and crossed her legs under the table.

"First thing on the agenda is plans for move in day." Grace stated, getting the meeting started with confidence. She would make up in zeal what she lacked in Washington experience. "Would you take us through those, Theo?"

"Certainly." the older man said, not bothering to open his folder. "We call it the five hour transition, Mrs. Helman, and it begins when President Santos and his family leave the White House for the last time on the 20th at 10:30am. From that point on, my staff are bustling bustling bustling to clear out their personal affects and their selected furnishings, complete any minor repairs that need to be done in the residence, and move in your selected furnishings, decorations, and personal affects. It will be all hands on deck; every domestic worker in the White House becomes a mover for just under five hours, and we will have it done in time for your arrival at 3:15pm."

"That's amazing." Tara remarked with her eyebrows raised. "It sounds like a real back-breaker."

"It can be, ma'am, but we're quite used to it. According to your list, you're bringing less than some Presidents of the past." he said with a friendly smile.

"I'm opting to bring in things a bit more progressively. I want to see how things look first before I select rugs, special drapes, and certain paintings." Tara said with a smile.

"Were you planning on having some of the designers from the Committee for the Preservation of the White House help you?" Rebecca asked, a curious expression on her face.

"Of course. Why bring on designers if you're not planning on letting them design?" Tara answered amiably.

"That's true." Theo said with a nod. "When you arrive, I will greet you and your family at the front door and I believe you will have 45 minutes to see the residential floors. We will come up with the staff that will work up there on a regular basis, your valets and housekeeping staff, and make sure you get a chance to meet them before your husband is whisked off for some West Wing business."

"Valets?" Tara asked with a serious expression on her face. " You don't mean for cars, do you?"

"No, ma'am," Theo answered with a smile, " the two valets assigned to your family we'll take care of your daily needs and serve as a liaison between you and the resident staff."

Tara frowned turned her head to the side and seemed to think for some time. After a split-second, however, she seemed to realize that she was making the face and corrected her expression.

"I'm sorry," she said, offering a correcting smile, "we never had anything like that and Indianapolis."

"This is the big leagues now, ma'am. I'm pretty sure of presidential valets have been serving presidential families since the beginning." Grace said, looking at her boss with an understanding gaze.

"Yes, that's right." Theo added, looking at the future first lady. "You're certainly not the first person to be uncomfortable with it, ma'am. But, I assure you, whoever your choice is for the role will learn how to be just as discrete as you feel they should be. My office is already forwarded Grace list of recommended candidates from the military office for your selection. Typically, first lady select one male and one female. They will wash your clothes, make your beds, and help your personal chef in preparing your food. You won't have as much time as you might think to do these things yourself."

Tara sighed, her gaze shifting toward the gilded china in the cabinet next to her. This was clearly going to be 12 steps up from the governor's mansion, and she didn't honestly feel prepared. She knew she would have just in time, but right now she was only feeling anxiety. When silence fell across the room, Grace took the hint and decided to push the meeting along.

"Next on the list of the social schedule. Rebecca, would you like to take over?"

"Absolutely, I would!" Rebecca responded with a bright smile. She introduced her attitude to the environment and instantly perked things up again. " The transition team has sent me several events set for the next coming weeks that my office has already started to work on. Week after the inauguration, we have an official working visit with the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. In February we have Japan, Israel, Germany, and Italy. Then, of course, the president will have a trip to Germany on his first International visit. I assume you'll be going with him?"

"Umm..." replied the soon-to-be First Lady.

"Mrs. Helman will get back to you on that." Grace said with an amused smile. Rebecca returned it, understanding that all of the information was a bit overwhelming.

"I've looked over the preparation documents you sent me, and it looks good so far. I do have some adjustments I want made, but you'll receive them when I forward my notes to you." Tara responded, moving away from the question about the state visit to Germany. " Besides what is already been communicated to me, is there any other item on the agenda?"

"Not as of yet, ma'am, but you'll be the first to know if there is." Rebecca responded, nodding affirmatively.

"That leaves us with one last thing, then." Grace said, looking over at the First Lady with a grin. "The most delicious responsibility on the list. You have to pick a White House Executive Chef."

Tara return the grin of a longtime employee and friend. They had dreamed up several celebrity options only to go with someone more practical: a White House insider who had worked there since the late 90's.

"The President-elect and I are going to go with Michael White." Tara Helman responded.

"Oh, I'm sure Michael will be delighted, ma'am. He's always wanted the job, and I think he'll serve you very very well." Theo said with a satisfied expression.

"I was hoping he would." Mrs. Helman said with a smile, and then looked subtly at her watch. "I'm sorry, folks, but my next meeting is calling my name. The Head of the Protection Detail wants to run me through the ringer. I'm not excited about it, but its a must."

With that, she stood, and the other three stood with her. They each said their goodbyes and thank you's and headed to their next important work.


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