Read an Excerpt
An Excerpt from Monica's Story
Stifling a yawn, Monica Lewinsky pulled on black leggings and a CZY gray T-shirt, then made for the door, negotiating her way around the half-filled packing boxes that littered her ground-floor apartment in the Watergate Building in downtown Washington. Once outside, she climbed into her brother's Jeep Cherokee and nursed it through the morning traffic for the fifteen-minute journey to her new gym on fashionable Connecticut Avenue.
Conscious, as ever, of her weight, she wanted to get in shape for her new job, working in the Public Relations Division of Revlon, the cosmetics company, in New York. Yet while it was an exciting and enticing prospect, her anticipation of this new life was tinged with regret. She was leaving the person she loved, the one man who had occupied her every waking moment and invaded her restless nights for the last two years -- the President of the United States.
There was another and more pressing worry. As she took part in the morning aerobics class, her mind was occupied with more than a sentimental reverie for the man she had loved and now seemed destined to lose. She had been ordered to make a sworn statement in a civil case brought by Paula Jones, a clerical worker from the President's home state of Arkansas, who claimed that, in May 1991, when he had been state Governor, he had sexually harassed and assaulted her. But while she had complied with the order, Monica had lied in her affidavit. As far as she was concerned, the fact that she had had an affair with a married man, even if he was the most powerful individual in the free world, was nobody's business but her own.
As the disco beat pounded through the mirror-walled exercise room, Monica knew she had a major problem, a predicament that had been gnawing at her soul for nearly a month. She had told a girlfriend, a middle-aged secretary at her office in the Pentagon, about her affair. Now that friend was threatening to go public. For the last month Monica had tried every thing to ensure her silence, even offering her a condominium in Australia.
What she did not know then, however, was that her friend, Linda Tripp, had in fact been bent on betraying her for almost a year. She had even taped Monica's phone calls to her, planning to use the girl's indiscreet remarks in a "kiss-and-tell book" she proposed to write; worse still, she had plotted with a right-wing political spy, a magazine reporter and Paula Jones's lawyers to expose her. In the last couple of days Tripp had made a Faustian pact with the Special Prosecutor, Kenneth Starr, a former Bible salesman turned lawyer who had been zealously pursuing Monica's lover, the President, for the last four years. Starr would guarantee Tripp's immunity from prosecution for illegally taping her friend's calls if she told him everything, a deal that would leave Monica facing jail for having sworn a false statement.
Monica knew none of this, however, as she stopped off at the Starbucks coffee shop for her usual brew, a large latte, skimmed, with sweetener and a shake of chocolate and cinnamon. As she sipped her coffee and read the Washington Post for that Friday, January 16, she was paged on her beeper by "Mary," the code name Tripp was now using in their increasingly fraught communications.
She immediately called back, hoping that the older woman had at last seen sense and agreed to file an affidavit that would leave both of them in the clear. In her nasal New Jersey drawl, Tripp told her that she was planning to see her new lawyer later that day, and wanted to meet with Monica before that critical meeting to discuss what she should say in her affidavit. Monica readily agreed and arranged to see her at the shopping mall in Pentagon City at eleven o'clock. Relieved, she resumed her reading of the paper, only to be interrupted by another page from "Mary," who now pushed the meeting back to a quarter to one. Again she agreed.
That was not the only page she received that fateful morning. Next there was a call from "Kay" -- the code name used by the President's Personal Secretary, Betty Currie. She told Monica that she had spoken to the President about inquiries from the media, and particularly from Michael Isikoff of Newsweek magazine, whose questions seemed to indicate a level of knowledge about the illicit affair. The President's message was to say nothing. Monica asked Betty to wish the President "Good luck," knowing that he was due to give his sworn statement in the Paula Jones case on the following day.
Finishing her coffee, she decided that, rather than return to her apartment, she would pick up a few more packing boxes for her move to New York. She hoped that, if Tripp held firm in her affidavit and the President did the same in his deposition on the following day, then at last she would be able to wake up from this silly nightmare and the ridiculous Paula Jones case would drift out of her life.
Having killed some time, Monica still arrived early at the Pentagon mall, and therefore stood by the sushi bar reading a women's magazine. By now, however, she had begun to feel sick -- seriously nauseous, in fact, as an awful sense of dread dragged at the pit of her stomach. She had lost all faith in Tripp, whose behavior and disposition had altered dramatically over the last few months. Indeed, she now seemed a different person from the friend to whom Monica, one fateful day just over a year before, had reluctantly confided her love for the President.
In truth, she was tired of Linda Tripp, sick of her prevarication and her lies; she hated, too, the fact that she was now beholden to a woman she no longer liked, let alone trusted. A three-hour lunch a couple of days earlier had been a dragging ordeal, Monica forced to be pleasant as she listened to the other woman's evasions and her sly excuses. Now, to cap it all, Tripp was late.
It crossed Monica's mind that she should leave the mall and go home to finish her packing. She delayed, worried about the look on the face of her "Handsome" -- her affectionate nickname for the President -- if he were ever to discover that she had revealed their intimate secret. And he certainly would find that out if Linda Tripp were to swear an affidavit expressing what she knew of Monica's affair with him.
Then, as she continued to loaf by the sushi bar, she at last spotted the lumpy figure of Tripp, dressed in a dun-brown business suit, slowly descending the escalator. Lowering her magazine, Monica walked towards her, hiding her irritation behind a mask of friendship, preparing to greet her one-time friend while hoping that their meeting would be as short as it would be successful. "Hi," she said, reaching out to hug Tripp. The other was stiff and unresponsive, however; worse, she gestured with her eyes to two cold-faced men in dark suits and white shirts who had followed her down the escalator.
As they approached, an overwhelming sense of fear seized the base of Monica's throat, almost choking her. They introduced themselves as agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, extending their shiny steel badges rather than their hands to confirm their identities. Then, in clipped sentences that she could barely hear above the hubbub of the lunchtime throng, they told her that they were sanctioned by the United States Attorney General, Janet Reno, to investigate crimes committed in relation to the Paula Jones lawsuit.
"Ma'am, you are in serious trouble," they told her ominously, before adding, "But we would like to give you an opportunity to save yourself." Gasping for air, she looked plaintively at the two agents and then at Linda Tripp. How could she have done this to me? How could I ever have trusted her, and trusted her for so long? Hardly able to breathe, her heart pounding harder than she had ever thought possible, she managed to blurt out the one sentence she had heard in almost every crime movie she had ever seen: "I'm not talking to you without my attorney."
They barely missed a beat, replying with practiced certainty, "That's fine. But if you do that you may not be able to help yourself so much. We just want to talk to you. You are free to leave when you want." Monica's token defiance barely lasted the time it took for them to say the words; shocked and frightened, she burst into a flood of tears. Tripp now spoke for the first time. In her rasping voice she told her young friend, "Trust me, Monica, this is for your own good. Just listen to them. They did the same thing to me." Then she reached forward and, like a latter-day Judas, tried to embrace her. Monica pulled away in revulsion.
The FBI men made it clear that if she cooperated she might not be in so much trouble, and it took Monica a few seconds before she grasped the meaning of what they were saying. Her every instinct told her to walk away; equally, however, she calculated that if she did so she would not find out what was going on, and would not therefore be able to help either her case, or the President. She therefore agreed to accompany the FBI agents to their room in the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, which is adjacent to the concourse. At this point she had one overwhelming thought in her mind -- she must warn the President.
As this unlikely group now ascended the escalators Monica was screaming in her head to the passing parade, "Help! These monsters have me. Please, somebody save me. Dear God, please help me." But the shoppers passed by without a glance, without offering a helping hand, without even having a clue about the calamity that had just overtaken the silently pleading girl.
She was in shock and she was panicking, but most of all she was in deep, deep trouble. As the lift took Monica, her treacherous friend and the two cold-eyed FBI men to the Ritz-Carlton's Room 1012, she found herself thinking,
"How did I get here?"
1999 by St. Martin's Press.