Authors: Barbara Delinsky
Coming from her father, the “I remember” stories were warm and fun. In spite of the hardships he described, there was a fondness in his voice for the time in his life when he’d made the best of the low cards he’d been dealt. There was nothing warm or fun or fond in Patricia’s voice when she spoke of the old days. Her tone was hard. Everything about her was hard when she spoke of the old days, and if Pam had been leaning against her, that was the time when she would get up and move to sit on the floor or wander around the room. Her mother wasn’t happy when she talked of the past. Sometimes she wasn’t much happier when she talked of the present.
“I never had any security until I met your father. We have some now, but not enough. Real estate is the future. I’m going to have your father talk with Franklin Dowd at the symphony dinner on Thursday night. Franklin has done well for himself in the last few years.”
Pam was too young to know who Franklin Dowd was, why real estate was the future, or what the necessity was for stockpiling assets. But she was sensitive to simple emotions, attuned to facial expressions and tones of voice. Just as she knew that her mother grew agitated when she talked business with her father, so she knew that Eugene was correspondingly complacent. He agreed with Pam. His life was just fine. He loved the things money could buy and availed himself of them as he pleased, but he was happiest and smiled the most when he was in Maine, wearing overalls, either checking on work at one of the mine sites or visiting with his friends, the men he’d known all his life.
Pam knew them all. Whenever she was in Maine, Eugene had her with him, showing her off, teaching her to love the men, the mine, the crisp, clean air on a cool Maine night. Some of the things they did, like sneaking out to swim in the stream at midnight, were secrets because Patricia wouldn’t understand. Other things they did, like share a picnic lunch with the governor, were secrets because John wouldn’t understand.
John didn’t understand much, as far as Pam was concerned. He was sixteen years older than she, the product of Eugene’s first marriage and a different world, and if he’d ever been a child, Pam couldn’t see it. He didn’t play games, tell jokes, or watch television. Moreover, he didn’t like tourmaline, didn’t like Timiny Cove, and didn’t like Eugene or Patricia or Pam. “He’s jealous,” Eugene would sometimes say when John was at his worst around Pam, and in her innocent way she understood. The warmth that she shared with her father never flowed between father and son. When Eugene and John stood side by side, they rarely touched. When they talked, they rarely smiled. They shared a temper, but then, Pam shared it too, and though in time she learned to control it, she hadn’t managed it when she was eight and playing poker.
The game had gone on for little more than an hour when John burst into the back room. “We have a problem,” he announced to Eugene without preamble. “Your foreman’s stealing stones.”
Eugene sent his son a dark look before shifting a slow gaze first to Rufus, then to Dwayne. “That’s quite an accusation.” Lips pursed, he looked back at his cards.
“I’ve been going over the books,” John went on. He didn’t bother to look at Rufus or Dwayne, and Pam was just as glad. The looks he usually gave them weren’t the nicest. “They’re a mess. When was the last time you went through them yourself?”
Eugene tossed a penny into the pot to match the one Dwayne had bet before him. “I don’t have to go through the books. I have a bookkeeper to do that.”
“Then your bookkeeper is as crooked as Blaise,” was John’s brash assessment. “We’re taking more out of the ground than is reaching the vault.”
“Another time, John. We’ll deal with this another time.”
“Simon knows he’s been found out.”
Eugene looked up. “You told him?”
“He was there. I didn’t see the point in waffling.”
“Did you fire him?”
“No. I thought you’d want to do that.”
“Well, I don’t. Simon Blaise has worked for me for twenty years, which is a damn sight longer than you have. What gives you the right to waltz in and start harassing my people?”
John did glance at the other men then, obviously resentful of being taken down by his father in their presence. Pam wasn’t bothered by it at all. It was John’s fault. He’d started it.
Apparently realizing that he had no escape, he turned on his father. “You were the one who wanted me here, when I’d rather have stayed in Boston. There’s plenty there to keep me busy. But you dragged me up so you could play hooky with her.” He shot Pam a nasty look. “I have an interest in this company. You’re the one who keeps reminding me of that. So I called a crooked employee to account. Blaise is stealing.”
“Says you. We’re making money hand over fist, and someone’s stealing our stones, says you. The state gives us an award for fair service, and the books are messed up, says you. Well, I say that Simon Blaise is a good man.”
Even if Pam had been deaf, she’d have known Eugene was angry from the set of his jaw. In turn, she got angry. This was her time with her father. She didn’t want John spoiling it.
But John seemed determined to do just that. “He’s waiting. I told him we’d be back. If we take much longer, he’ll have skipped town.”
All four at the table still held their cards, but none was paying attention to the game. The instant Eugene laid down his hand and stood, Pam was up on her knees on the chair, protesting, “We’re playing, Daddy.”
“This is more important than poker,” John told her.
“Only because you’ve made it that way,” Eugene said. Standing at his full height, he was an inch or two taller than John, but still the family resemblance was marked. The fiery eyes, the rigid square jaw, the belligerent stance—the two men were definitely father and son. “You shouldn’a said anything to Simon, John. I’m not in the habit of throwing accusations around, especially when it involves my men. If something strange is goin’ on, there’s a reason.”
“Greed. How’s that for a reason?”
“No good. Doesn’t apply to Simon. You should’a known that, John. You’ve been working full-time for this company for two years, summers longer than that. You should know by now who you can trust and who you can’t.” Turning back to the others, he said, “Simon needs talking to. I have to make sure he don’t quit on me. Pammy, Rufus’ll walk you home.”
“But we just started! I want to play longer!”
“It’s past your bedtime,” John told her.
Pam ignored him. “Why don’t I wait here, Daddy, and you’ll come back when you’re done?”
“Because I don’t know when I’ll be done, thanks to your brother. So long as he’s ruined the night, I might as well take a look at those books.” Stooping down, he gave her a hug. “We’ll play again tomorrow. Right, Rufus?”
Adding his own “Yup,” Dwayne took the lollypop from his pocket, but Pam didn’t want the sweet. She took it so as not to hurt his feelings, but she held it tightly in her hand, fully wrapped, all the way home.
Once there, she ran inside, but instead of finding Marcy, who would have been sympathetic to her cause, she found Hillary Cox. “John isn’t here,” she yelled and gave the stairs a kick. “He’s making trouble for my father.”
“Where’s Marcy?” Rufus asked Hillary.
“She ran over to see her mother. She won’t be long. I told her I’d keep an eye on things while she was gone.” Pam coiled herself into a corner of the bottom stair and refused to say goodbye to Rufus. The instant he was down the walk, as though she’d held her temper in check as long as she possibly could, she cried, “I hate him. I hate him.”
“Rufus?” Hillary asked.
“John. He’s a rat. He spoils everything, and I hate him!”
She punctuated her claim with several more swift kicks to the stair riser. “He should have stayed in Boston. I don’t like it when he’s here. He takes the fun out of everything.”
Hillary left her post against the parlor arch and sank onto the step above Pam’s. “What did he do?”
“He got Daddy angry. He’s always doing that.” She turned blazing eyes on Hillary. “Know what I think? I think he was a mistake.”
“What do you mean, a mistake?”
“I think he was the wrong baby. He isn’t Daddy’s.”
“That doesn’t happen.”
“It does. My friend Sharon was telling me about a baby that happened to, and it makes sense. John and Daddy don’t get along. They’re always fighting.”
“But they look exactly alike.”
“They do not. Daddy smiles.”
“That’s external, like their clothes. Your father’s are older and more worn, because he’s been wearing them here for so long. John isn’t here as much, so his are newer and stiffer. He wears a suit in the city. But if you look at their build and their features, they’re definitely father and son.”
“Poor Daddy.” She rushed on when Hillary looked ready to defend John. “You like him, but that’s because you think he’s handsome. You came over here to see him, didn’t you?”
“Do you know when he’ll be back?”
“No, and I don’t care! He’s a rat!”
“I don’t know about that.”
“Are you his girlfriend now?”
“I don’t know.”
“I do,” Pam cried. “He hates it up here. if you’re his girlfriend now, you won’t be for long, because he’s leaving.”
“Well, so am I,” Hillary shot back.
That diverted Pam’s attention for a minute, though it didn’t surprise her. Everyone knew that Hillary Cox was different from most of the people in Timiny Cove. She looked different, for one thing, kind of exotic with her dark, curly hair and her light, light skin. For another thing, she kept to herself. Her whole family did. They were odd, Pam had long ago decided, because she couldn’t imagine any family in Timiny Cove that wouldn’t want to go to the annual spring picnic. Her father said that the Cox family was brilliant, but that still didn’t explain to Pam why they kept to themselves.
“Where are you going?” she asked.
“To college in Boston. Maybe I’ll see you more often.”
If not brilliant, Pam was astute. “You’re going there to be closer to John.”
“I’m going there for an education.”
“It’s a dumb thing to do! John’s a rat. He spoils everything he gets near, and if you get near him, he’ll spoil you, too.”
“I certainly hope so,” Hillary said with a smile.
Pam was not old enough to understand Hillary’s smile. Besides, with the mention of John, she remembered that she wanted to be playing poker with her father, that the game had been ruined, and why. “Well, if you’re stupid enough to go looking for trouble, you can have him! Because that’s all John is! He’s a rat and a spoiler and I hate his guts!” Hurling Dwayne’s candy against the far wall, she bolted to her feet and sped up the stairs to cry by herself.
Pam’s tears were long dried by the following morning. She had kicked the anger out against her bed and was spent. John returned to Boston, and although Eugene didn’t have as much free time because of that, calm once again returned to Pam’s life in Timiny Cove. When the vacation ended and she returned to Boston, that peace was with her. She was glad to see her mother, and with the ease borne of practice she slipped back into the more formal life that Patricia dictated.
Pam liked that life, too—her school, her friends, shopping with her mother, going out to eat, going to parties. Her Boston life was busy and full, a fine counterpoint to the casual spontaneity of Timiny Cove.
What she wished for on the first star each night was that Eugene would come home soon. She missed him when he stayed in Maine, which he did more and more as time passed. He came home for everything important—Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter—and she went north during every vacation, but there were fewer times than ever when they did things as a family, just Patricia, Eugene, and her. Those were her favorite times, the times when she felt the happiest. She loved her birthdays, too, for that reason. When she turned nine, Eugene came home and took Patricia and her to a special dinner at the Ritz. When she turned ten, he came home and took them to New York. John usually managed to be away when Eugene was home, which was just as well. Pam decided she would hit him with the fireplace poker if he dared spoil her birthday.
Mercifully, he didn’t do that, and for the most part he avoided her. He had his own friends. He worked at the headquarters of St. George Mining in Boston, but on weekends he went to places like Long Island and Newport and Bar Harbor with the sons of judges and lawyers and bankers. Patricia encouraged him, and Pam didn’t mind his absences because when he was around, and when he did talk to her, his words were often cruel.
Partly because Patricia liked John, and partly because a little voice inside told her not to, she never discussed that with Patricia. Marcy was the one she went to then.
Marcy Willow was reed-thin and pale, but for all her mousy looks, she seemed to know everything about life. When Pam asked Eugene how someone who was only sixteen could know so much, he explained that Marcy had seen life at its most bare, without any of the frills and cushions Pam had.
Even without that bid for compassion, Pam would have liked Marcy. For one thing, Marcy was from Timiny Cove, and though her home there wasn’t much more than a broken-down tarpaper shack, Pam adored anything to do with the Cove. For another, Marcy was shy, unassuming, and undemanding, which made giving her little gifts and taking her places a treat for Pam. Although Marcy was in the St. George home to work as a maid, she was like a big sister to Pam. Marcy was the one to whom Pam could pour out her heart when she felt so inclined, the one Pam could count on to help understand John’s mutterings.