Authors: Barbara Delinsky
While the climax he reached that night wasn’t as sweet as some he’d had or as fiery as others, it was unique. It satisfied the dark cravings of his mind, gave him the perverse pleasure of cuckolding his father.
OM?” PAM BEGAN CALLING
as soon as she opened the front door. “Mom?” Even before the door slammed shut, she had dropped her book bag and was darting into the living room, but there was no sign of Patricia. Nor was she in the parlor or the library.
She poked her head into the kitchen. “Hettie, isn’t my mother home?”
Hettie was a very large, very dark Jamaican who cooked like a dream. “Oo-yes, Miss Pamela. She be upstairs napping.” She held out a plate. “Sand dollars. Made just for you.”
Pam flashed her a grin, took one of the cookies from the plate, and pushed it into her mouth on the way out the door. She dashed back through the hall and was halfway up the front stairs when John came down from the top and blocked her way. He was the last person she wanted to see.
“What are you doing here?” she asked.
“I live here.”
“You’re supposed to be at work.” She moved to the side to pass him, but he flattened a hand against the wall.
“I had to change clothes. There’s a cocktail party at the Parker House.”
She moved to the other side, but he gripped the mahogany banister. “Move, John. I have to go up.”
“What’s the rush?”
“I have to see my mother.”
Pam tried to duck under his arm, but she wasn’t as short as she used to be. In the last few months she’d sprouted up. She might have minded, had Eugene not been so proud of her height, which he said she’d inherited from him. Since she had more friends than ever in seventh grade, she figured it was just fine to be tall and slim rather than voluptuous.
She wasn’t anywhere near tall enough to be able to look John in the eye, though, and she wasn’t about to physically butt him. He made her uneasy. Although he wore the trousers and shirt he’d worn to work that day, the shirt was unbuttoned, exposing his chest, and his hair was mussed. He didn’t look as civilized as usual.
“I have to talk with her. Please, John. Let me by.”
“What do you have to talk with her about?”
“What is it?”
Pam wasn’t about to share her excitement with him. “Nothing special.”
“You’re in a pretty big rush for nothing special. Couldn’t you even stop to take off your coat?”
Her coat was the last thing on her mind. “Let me by, John!” She aimed her voice up the stairs. “Mom? Mom!”
“I said, she’s resting.”
“I just have to ask her something quick.” She tried to move his arm, but it wouldn’t budge. Taking another breath, she hollered,
“Shut up, Pam, and leave her be.” Grasping her arm in one very large hand, he began to propel her back down the stairs.
“Let me go,” she protested, squirming. Freed after a step or two, she turned on him. “Who do you think you are? You’re not my father, and you’re not my guard. She’s
mother, not yours. If I want to see her, I have a right to!”
“Not when she has other things on her mind.”
“She always has other things on her mind, because you come home and talk about work, work, work with her. Well, this is important. I have to speak to her now. It can’t wait.”
“It’ll just have to, princess, because you’re not going up there yet—”
“John?” Patricia called from the top of the stairs. She was wearing a silk robe and was combing her hair back with her fingers. “It’s all right, John. What is it, Pamela?”
Pam heard the annoyance in her voice and blamed it on John. “I have to ask you something, and he won’t let me.” She tried to dodge him once again, but he deftly shifted his body and continued to block her way. There was no need for him to do it, since her mother was up, but he was enjoying himself, she realized. He was enjoying her frustration. So she promptly stopped fighting him and moved back down the stairs until she could look up at Patricia around his towering frame. “The Claflins asked me to go to North Conway with them this weekend. They’re leaving right after dinner and will be back Sunday night. Can I go?”
“What’s in North Conway?” Patricia asked.
“They have a house there. It’s less than five minutes from the mountain, Laurie says.”
“Skiing,” John told Patricia. “You can’t go,” he said to Pam. “You’ve never been skiing before. You’ll break a leg.”
Ignoring him, Pam pleaded with her mother. “There’s a ski school at the bottom of the mountain. I’ll take lessons. That’s what Laurie does. Please, Mom? I’ve always wanted to go skiing.”
“You have not,” John argued. “But you and every other little teenager is dreaming about bumping into Jean Claude Killy on the slopes. He won’t be there, princess, and the boys who will be will laugh when you fall.” The doorbell rang. “If you wanted to ski, you should have started when you were little.” He scowled when she turned and ran toward the door. “For God’s sake, Pam, we have a butler.”
Not one to stand on ceremony, she opened the door herself. “Hillary,” she breathed in relief. Despite their shaky start, she and Hillary had become friends. Hillary wasn’t exactly a flower child like the ones on the Common, but she’d loosened up since she’d been at college. Pam thought she looked wonderful. Her eyes were lined in black, her hair was parted in the middle, worn long and loose, and her coat was open over a dress that was far more mini than anything Patricia would allow Pam to wear. “Am I glad you’re here. Have you ever been skiing?”
Hillary regarded her quizzically, then looked past her toward John. The quizzical look became one of interest when she saw his state of dishabille. “Skiing?” Then she caught sight of Patricia at the top of the stairs, and her eyes shot back to Pam. “Sure I have. It’s fun.”
“When did you first go?”
“Three years ago, when I was a freshman.”
“And you didn’t break a leg?”
“Of course not.”
Pam turned a triumphant smile on John before transferring the smile, minus the triumph, to Patricia. “See? It’s perfectly safe. Laurie says I can rent skis and stuff there. I already have a parka. All I have to do is buy ski pants and heavy socks and long underwear.”
“But they’re leaving tonight,” Patricia protested.
“We have this afternoon.”
“I can’t take you shopping now. I have to get dressed. What time is the party, John?”
“You’re going too?” Pam asked, feeling the dismay she always felt when Patricia did things with John.
“Of course I’m going. I’m on the committee. There are cocktails and hors d’oeuvres at the Parker House, then we’re all going down to the theater. After the show, there’s a light buffet back at the hotel.”
“Why isn’t Daddy going?”
“Because he’s in Maine,” John answered.
Still Pam directed her questions to Patricia. “Does he know about the party?”
“Of course he does,” she answered. “But he can’t get in, so John has agreed to take me. Honestly, Pamela, this really doesn’t concern you.”
“It does. I want to go skiing, and I can’t do it if we don’t go shopping first. It won’t take long to run down to Filene’s.”
Hillary spoke up. “I’ll take her shopping.”
Looking back at her, Pam saw that her eyes were on John, which wasn’t at all surprising. Hillary always looked at John. What was surprising was the edge Pam saw in the look.
“I have nothing to do until later tonight. I’d be glad to take Pam shopping. I’ve been skiing. I know just what she needs.”
Pam looked more hesitantly at her mother. Much as she liked Hillary, she’d still rather shop with Patricia. They hadn’t done it in such a long time.
But Patricia was already accepting Hillary’s offer. “Are you sure you wouldn’t mind—”
“Patricia,” John cut in, “I don’t think skiing is the best idea.”
“It can’t harm her. She’ll be busy and happy for the weekend. Hillary, wait there. I’ll get the charge card.” And she was gone.
“Thanks a lot, Hillary,” John said. His eyes were cold.
Passing Pam, she approached him. Her palm went flat against the bare flesh of his middle, fingers splaying wide. In a low, even tone, she said, “Pam shouldn’t have to suffer because you have escort duty. Neither should I. I like your sister. She has the spunk in the family. We’ll have a good time together, maybe even catch an early dinner before she leaves.”
“And after that? Where are you going?”
Before she could answer, Patricia was back, leaning over the top railing. Hillary trotted up the few steps and took the charge card from her hand. “I’ll get her something nice.”
“Not too expensive. And not risque. Pamela, darling, be good for Hillary, and be good for the Claflins. It was sweet of them to invite you. Have Hettie pack up a box of cookies. Better still, stop at S.S. Pierce and pick up some jams. They make a nice gift.”
“We’ll be back before you leave,” Pam started to say, but Patricia was already disappearing back down the hall toward her bedroom. John was once again an immobile force on the staircase, and this time it didn’t seem worth the effort to fight him. She’d won on the issue of skiing. She wouldn’t push her luck. “I have to call Laurie and tell her I can come,” she told Hillary. “I’ll be right back.”
She took her time with the call, then stopped in the kitchen for another cookie. But when she returned to the hall, there was no sign of John.
“Where did he go?”
Hillary shot a despairing glance toward the second floor.
“I thought he’d stay and talk with you.”
“Yeah. So did I.”
“He’s a rat.”
Hillary slipped an arm around Pam’s shoulder. “What else is new?”
“You should tell him to go to hell.”
“Oh, my, such language from one so young.”
“I mean it. Doesn’t it bother you when he ignores you that way?”
She smiled. “Nah. That’s just John.”
Not for a minute, though, did Pam believe that Hillary wasn’t bothered. She could see it in the sadness in her smile. Wanting to cheer her up, she said, “But you have plans for later, so John’s the loser. Who are you seeing?”
Hillary collared her with a playful elbow and ushered her out the door before she handled that one. “A guy from school. Tom Rush is playing at a coffeehouse in the Square.” Side by side, they trotted down the stairs.
“Who’s Tom Rush?”
“Who’s the guy?”
“No one special.”
“Why not? You should be meeting someone special. You’re at that age.”
Hillary laughed as they started up Mt. Vernon Street. “Who told you that?”
“Marcy. You’re a senior. You’re supposed to get married soon.”
“Not me. I’m not getting married.”
“I wouldn’t say that. Just not real soon.”
“Because John won’t get married? What’s wrong with him, Hillary? Everyone he knows is getting married. He goes to weddings all the time, and if it isn’t weddings, it’s christenings. So what’s wrong with him?”
“Can’t he at least find his own place to live?”
“Is he still giving you a hard time?”
“Yes. Why don’t you propose to him? Maybe he needs a little push. Tell him that you’re graduating and that it’s time for you two to get married. Tell him that you’re madly in love—”
“I will not. I don’t want to get married. I have other plans.”
“What are they?”
“I’m going to New York.” She half-turned as they walked so that she faced Pam. “And don’t breathe a word of this to John, because it isn’t definite. I still have to find a job, but whether it’s this year or the next or the next, I’m going to New York.” Facing front again, she linked arms with Pam. “John doesn’t know. I’ll tell him when I’m sure.”
“Why do you want to go to New York?”
“Because that’s where big things happen.”
“But you’re a writer. You can write anywhere.”
“I want to do it in New York.”
“Then I won’t see you. Then
won’t see you. Then you won’t see
.” When Hillary didn’t answer, she said, “That’s a lousy idea, Hillary.”
“That’s what John will say. He’ll say that I’ll never make it in New York and that I’m silly to try. But he’s not offering me anything better, is he?”
Turning down Joy Street, they walked on. When a chill wind whipped up from the Common, they leaned closer together.
“I’ll miss you if you move to New York.”
“I’m not moving yet.”
“But you will, and what will I do then? Who’ll stick up for me when John does his rat thing?”
“You’ll stick up for yourself. You already do, Pam. I admire you for that.”
“He wouldn’t let me up those stairs today, and there wasn’t anything I could do about it.”