We're Just Friends: Short Story Prequel to Pam of Babylon #8

We’re Just Friends

By

Suzanne Jenkins

 

1st edition

Copyright © 2014 by

Suzanne Jenkins. All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission of the author except in the case of brief quotations in blog posts and articles and in reviews.

We’re Just Friends by Suzanne Jenkins
is a complete and total work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

 

Wednesday, August 26

Hello Sandra,

Pam has mentioned your name so many times, I feel we know each other. It might seem odd to you that I’m writing the best friend of my fiancée, but it was actually her idea. She felt it might help us to get to know each other, but I have an ulterior motive. Because of it, I am going to ask you to keep what we discuss confidentially.

Pam’s trust issues are no surprise to you I’m sure. Not long into our relationship, it was clear it was going to take work to get her to believe in me. I’m hoping that as you get to know me, you’ll be able to encourage her to have faith that I’m not going to betray her.

What I’m up against is illustrated perfectly by something that happened last weekend. On Friday morning, I left Philadelphia and drove to Jeff’s house in Babylon. Pam and I spoke briefly by phone Thursday and confirmed that we would spend Saturday and Sunday going to several flea markets on the island. Earlier that week, I made plans to have dinner with a friend of my late wife who also lost her spouse a few years ago. We are friends only, I have no romantic feeling for Joyce or I would have been in a relationship with her instead of with Pam. It never occurred to me not to dine with Joyce. She was with Emily at the end of her life, supporting my children and me after Emily’s death. We’ve continued to have dinner just to catch up every few months when she’s in Babylon to visit her sister and I’m at Jeff’s house.

I arrived midafternoon with time to unpack, get a run on the beach and shower before dinner. Once again, it never occurred to me to call Pam because I had just talked to her the night before. We planned on an early breakfast Saturday before leaving for the market. I was looking forward to relaxing Friday after having dinner with an old friend. The weekend would be exhausting, going full speed ahead with Pam.

You’ve known Pam for years. Does she ever stop? She’s like a machine, constantly moving. She works out daily. There’s not a second wasted the moment she wakes up until it’s time for bed. I’ll admit that it is often difficult for me to keep up with her. I know I’m lucky to be with someone as dynamic as Pam. But it’s human nature to feel inferior because she’s so accomplished. My daughter, Jane would disagree.

“Exactly what does Pam do all day, Dad? You were a doctor, for heaven sake! You did something with your life.” I am telling you this because I think it will help you to have insight into our relationship, not to disparage Pam.

Anyway, I was running on the beach and I thought I saw her up ahead with her back to me, straw hat on, picking up trash and findings on the beach. It probably sounds unkind, but I wasn’t in the mood to explain why I was in Babylon a day early. I needed a break, I wasn’t trying to hide something from her. There’s was a staircase up to the street, so rather than engage her, I turned and ran to the stairs. Well, she saw me. She must have just turned her head as I ran off.

“Jason! Is that you?” She shouted it out; the surprise in her voice was bordering on disbelief. Resigned, I turned back and jogged down the sand dune to her.

“Hi,” I said, kissing her on the cheek. I realized she’d pulled back from me a little. She was not happy.

“I didn’t expect you today,” she said. She was breathing hard, her nostrils flaring with each breath. It scared me, a sign of someone in respiratory distress. But it was her anger bubbling over.

“I’m sorry, Pam. I came a day early just to chill out. I should have said something to you.”

“Was it my imagination, or were you trying to run away?” She’d got me there. I decided I had to be honest with her.

“I’m so sorry. I saw you and I didn’t feel like explaining myself. I know that sounds disrespectful.”

“Disrespect I can deal with. You didn’t want to see me after we haven’t seen each other in five days. You see me and run? Oh my God, I can’t believe it.”

She was pale and shaking, obviously trying to control herself. Turning to walk back to her house, we were miles away. “Pam don’t be this way.” Stupid of me to say, but it just popped out of my mouth. I didn’t add, “You’re acting ridiculous.” It was out of character, I thought at the time. Now I’m beginning to think it is exactly like Pam. She was completely unreasonable, but I followed because I was worried about her breathing.

Although I’m in good shape, I was having trouble keeping up with her at the pace she was going. After about fifteen minutes, I’d had enough and I grabbed her arm. “Wait up, please. I can’t keep up with you.” She did slow down, but her expression was unreadable. I’d never seen her as she was that day.

“I think we better forget this weekend,” she said, looking at me.

“Pam, you’re overreacting.”

“Ha! You come into town a day early, don’t tell me, and then when you see me on the beach, turn and run from me. I’m sorry Jason, but that’s what I would expect from someone who disliked me, not the man I’m engaged to be married to.”

“I just needed some space, that’s all. I didn’t feel like explaining to you why I’m here a day early.”

And then, the dreaded question. “Why
are
you here?” I was tempted to lie to her, tell her Jeff and I had plans, but he wasn’t even in town. I had to be honest with her because I didn’t want to sneak around that evening.

“I’m meeting Emily’s friend, Joyce Andrews for dinner tonight.”

“You’re having dinner with another woman,” she said. A red flush was working up her chest onto her neck. I had never seen this on Pam, but I figured it wasn’t good.

“Yes, she’s just a friend, Pam. I swear to you, she was there for us when Em died and I keep in touch with her because of that and that only.”

“Why would you lie to me if she means so little to you? It seems like a woman should be worth a lot if you’re willing to lie to your future wife about meeting her for dinner on a Friday night.”

“I didn’t lie to you.” I had just barely spoken when she slapped me across the face. It was so unexpected I almost fell over. And it hurt! She has a good swing.

“The hell you didn’t!” she screamed. Embarrassed; I looked around the area to see if anyone was watching us. “Not telling me you’re here because you didn’t feel like explaining you were having dinner with an old friend is just as bad as lying to me.”

“I’m not arguing with you about it,” I said. “It doesn’t mean anything to me.”

“Cancel dinner then,” Pam said, firmly. “If it doesn’t mean anything, you should be happy to.”

Taken aback, I said loudly, “I’m not canceling. It would hurt her feelings. What am I going to say? My girlfriend is acting like a spoiled brat telling me what to do. I think not.”

She stared right through me. “Leave me alone,” she said. It was pretty awful. Her face flushed, she shrugged away from me and started to run. I guess I didn’t realize she could run but then I remembered she ran for hours a week on the treadmill. I reached out to grab her arm again and she started to yell.

“Don’t touch me, Jason. Go back to Philadelphia.” I was appalled that a grown woman could act so childish. She’d blown the entire situation out of proportion.

The weekend was ruined for Pam and me, but I wasn’t changing my plans. I had a great dinner at a lobster place with Joyce and spent the rest of the time in a lounge chair under an umbrella, reading and being waited on by Jeff’s butler. I left for Philly early Monday morning, never having received an apology from Pam and I certainly didn’t try to contact her. I noticed cars coming and going from her house all weekend so she had company. It wasn’t like she was alone.

During the week, she left a message on my telephone. It explains her behavior, but I’m still feeling disappointed in her response. Here’s the transcript of her message.

Jason, I understand needing to stay in touch with Joyce. But the rest of it, the omission, running away from me on the beach, I don’t understand. There’s a lot you don’t know about me, but I know deceit when I see it and I won’t tolerate it, ever.

If you think I can be dismissed so easily, we need to reconsider our engagement. Perhaps you need to revisit your intentions for proposing. Why do you want to get married? I looks to me as though you need to stay single and be free to spend time with other women and not make excuses to a wife.

Please don’t call me back unless you are prepared to commit to me one hundred percent. Goodbye.

I’m sure the version you heard of our disagreement is much more dramatic than mine was. Pam can be very, shall we say
histrionic
. I know she’s over menopause, but sometimes I get the feeling a little hormone replacement therapy is in order. Could you mention it to her? I don’t think it would go over very well if I did.

So I called her and said I was one hundred percent committed to her. She came back with this shocker; she wants to get married next spring. I think it’s unreasonable to do so that soon, but I want to be with her and will do it on her terms.

I hope this will give you insight into our relationship. Any advice?

Yours truly,

Jason Bridges

 

Thursday, August 27

Sandra Benson

Lang, Smith and Romney

32 Exchange Place

New York, New York 10005

Dear Jason,

Thank for you for taking the time to write me. When we met, I felt we really hit it off in spite of Pam doing her best to keep us in different rooms. She spent so much energy making sure we didn’t speak to each other I wondered what she was afraid of. I feel disloyal talking to you about her. But since you initiated it, apparently with her blessing, I’ll forge ahead. First of all, let me say Pam never said a word to me about the weekend. She has too much pride to admit anything like that to another woman.

You already know how Pam and I met. It was in the worst possible circumstance. I was in love with her husband, and he was in love with me. I don’t know if you realize Ted’s late husband, Ashton told her that Jack was getting ready to leave Pam for me. Yet she was able to look beyond it and see that we had common ground on which to build a friendship, in spite of our age difference.

Now baby Brent binds us together no matter what happens. I don’t think she yet grasps the significance of me having her grandson. No matter what happens, baby Brent will always be there.

Regarding Pam’s anger when she discovered you were in Babylon; I think if my boyfriend made a trip that resulted in him being across a sand dune from me, and he didn’t tell me he was there, I’d be ticked off, too. She isn’t the jealous type, so I doubt if your dinner with Joyce was the real issue. If you’d let her know you were coming to the island a day early because you had plans, she’d have been fine. I think.

Let’s get together for coffee, shall we? On your way into Babylon, you should stop off here at the office.

Yours truly,

Sandra

 

Friday, August 28, 10 am.

Manhattan

“Call on line one.” The receptionist called through to Sandra’s office. “Hey Sandra, it’s Jason,” he said after she picked up the phone. “I’m getting ready to leave Philadelphia. I’d like to take you up on getting together to talk. I should be downtown by noon. Are you free for lunch?”

“Hi Jason,” she said, leaning over to look at her reflection in her computer screen. “That’d be fine. I’m on the 32 floor. Text me when you get into town. 212-550-9890.”

Three hours later, her phone beeped, signaling a text message had come in.
I’m downstairs. Traffic was horrible and I’m so sorry I’m late.
Calling his cell phone from her office phone, he answered on the first ring.

“Sorry again.”

“No problem, Jason. Get on the left bank of elevators and come up. I’m on the 32 floor.” After hanging up she rushed to her private bathroom and got out toothbrush and paste, lipstick and powder. She freshened up, reapplying makeup. Wetting a paper towel, she rubbed it under her arms and reapplied deodorant. When she finished, he was waiting in the reception area.

“Mr. Bridges here for you, Miss Benson,” the receptionist called through the intercom. Sandra took one last look in the mirror, satisfied with her appearance. Standing up extra straight and pulling her stomach in, she left her office to walk down the hallway, moving as if on a catwalk. Jason stood up when he saw her, and she was pleased with his response.

“Boy, it’s really nice to see you,” he said trying not to look her up and down, excited even though it had been a less than a week since they’d been together at Pam’s house.

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