Conflict was top of the agenda throughout the year. It was Philip Owen’s reason for running and it followed him on the campaign trail. The people were impressed by his attitude towards the conflicts and elected him the next President of the United States. He had work to do to deliver on his campaign promises but before his inauguration in January there was still one day when his presidential persona could be put aside – Christmas day.
Jennifer thought her father would have forgotten their traditions being so busy and her mother, Jackie, by his side every step of the way but their ranch in Texas was decorated with the same lights and Philip still had the same boyish look in his eyes he always got at Christmas. As thirteen year old Jennifer fell asleep she did so with a smile. Jackie told her that if her father was elected president a lot of things would have to change. Christmas, she was happy to find, wasn’t one of them.
The morning dawned and Jennifer leapt from her bed. She ran to the main lounge to find Philip waiting for her with open arms. The gifts surrounded him. He wore a grin and a green and white Christmas sweater.
“Come on! Dig in!” Philip cheered.
Jackie joined them, cradling a cup of coffee in her hands. She sat on the sofa facing the fire. Philip remained on the floor beside his daughter as she tore excitedly into the shiny wrapping paper of the gifts that had her name on them.
The first she produced was a hunting knife.
“Be very careful with that,” Jackie warned.
The knife had been the subject of much discussion between Philip and his wife. Both of them had strong arguments for and against. Jackie felt it wasn’t an appropriate gift for a thirteen year old and Philip – a keen debater – reminded the soon to be First Lady that Jennifer could wield weapons better than most adults. She had been hunting since she was seven. In the end it was what Jennifer wanted and that won over all arguments.
When the gifts had been opened Philips phone rang with a Christmas jingle. When he answered Jennifer noticed his face change. He was still smiling but it wasn’t the same one she was familiar with. It wasn’t his true smile. As he conducted his call his arms were still relaxed but his shoulders were set in such a way that wasn’t natural to him. Only someone who knew him as well as his daughter would recognise the difference.
A shadow passed by the window. Aaron Pierce was heading Secret Service detail around the ranch. Jennifer loved that they sacrificed their time with their own families so she could be safe with hers. Their sense of duty resonated with her.
Whilst Philip finished his call and Jackie set about finalising the arrangements for the party they were having that night, Jennifer leaned out the window where Aaron was stood watching the expanse of land in front of them.
“Merry Christmas, Aaron,” she said.
Aaron smiled back at her.
“Merry Christmas, mam,” he replied in a gruff Texan accent.
“Do you want some coffee?” she offered.
“No, thank you,” he said. “Did you have a good morning?”
Again, Jennifer was compelled by Aaron’s need to put his duty first.
“I did,” she said. “Will you see your family today?”
“We’ll all be doing our thing later when we have the change over, then I’ll be back tonight,” he explained.
Jennifer was glad he would have at least some time with his family.
Another Secret Service agent approached. He smiled at Jennifer who waved back. She closed the window and returned to the lounge where Philip was by the fire again.
The following year they would be in the White House so Jennifer absorbed as much of the image of Christmas at the Ranch as she could.
“I think there may be one present missing!” said Philip, raising his eyebrows with a hint of mischief.
Jennifer shook her head but smiled with amusement. “Really dad? Every year?”
Philip laughed heartily. He climbed to his feet and dashed off. He returned momentarily with another parcel with her name on it.
Every year since she was a small kid, Philip had always kept a gift aside for after all the others had been opened. It began when Jennifer was five and she mentioned something was missing from her list. Philip had created such a scene about Santa having left one of her gifts elsewhere in the house. Jennifer was beside herself. Even as she grew older, every year he loved to see the joy on her face as they recreated that same scene.
“Oh! Who could this be for?” he cheered returning to the floor with the gift. Jennifer shared the laughter.
That night, dad would become his presidential persona again. Her mother would be mingling and making sure she made the best connections. As he went deeper and deeper into his presidency Jennifer would have to remind herself more and more of the true man Philip Owen was with his warm eyes and goofy traditions, his love of Christmas and his family. The true man wasn’t something many people would get to see as he took on the responsibility of the country and Conflict became top of the agenda again.
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