Pam

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Grandma served lunch in her cramped dining room. I picked at my chicken salad and tried to shrink into my chair, hoping I'd disappear completely. Grandma had big plans to drive me to Sears after dad left to get me a "training brassiere." I shuddered at the thought.

"Tye, why don't you put your bags in the guest room?" Dad suggested after a bit, and I eagerly escaped to the room with the cabbage rose wallpaper. 

I put my clothes away in the dresser and scrounged a comic book from my suitcase. I sat on the bed. The mattress so ancient and uncomfortable I may as well sleep on boulders. I had just wriggled my feet from my Chucks and was about to catch up with Archie and the gang when Dad knocked on the doorframe.

"I'm going to head out, kiddo. I'll call ya." He opened his arms. I got up to give him a hug. "Go easy on Grandma, okay?"

"Okay." My voice was muffled against his shirt. My throat was aching. I was worried I'd cry.

"You'll be fine," Dad reassured me. "Grandma saw Pam the other day and let her know you'd be coming. Once you have someone to pal around with, you'll have a great time."

"We'll see," I said glumly, and Dad laughed, ruffling my hair.

"Dad!"

Dad laughed again, then took his Yankees cap from his head and plopped it on mine. "Keep this for me til I get back, okay?"

I slumped on the bed and picked at the loose threads of the old-fashioned chenille bedspread. I decided I didn't like being left behind.

In the silence of the house I heard the murmur of Dad and Grandma's voices downstairs, the sound of the screen door closing, then the rumble of the Pontiac's engine. Soon Dad was gone but the lump in my throat remained.

What if Dad really liked Tawni? What if he wanted to marry her? What could Dad, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, have in common with a bleached blonde waitress? Then I remembered the Polaroids she sent and her humongous mammaries. Dread settled in my gut.

"Titania!" Grandma called up the stairs. Soon we were in her Horizon, chugging down the highway to Sears.

I suffered the indignity of my brassiere fitting with as much grace as I could muster. My face was still flaming when we returned back to Grandma's.

In the bathroom, I surveyed my bumps through my t-shirt. As much as I hated to admit it, Grandma was right...I needed the training bra. I put the new bra on, feeling quite the sophisticate.

"Why don't you walk to Pam's and play until dinner?" Grandma suggested, and I grimaced. As a young lady who'd just procured her first Maidenform, it was unthinkable I should "go and play."

My hair frizzed during the short stroll down the block to Pam's, the humidity of the late afternoon making sweat run down the back of my legs.

"Oh," Mrs. Baxter unenthusiastically said when she answered the door. She hollered over her shoulder, "Pammy!"

A slimmed down Pam with perfectly bobbed blonde hair appeared. Dressed in peasant blouse and jean skirt, she looked much older than last time I visited.

"You two run along now." Mrs. Baxter practically pushed us out the door, slamming it behind us. In the backyard, Pam and I sat on the old swingset.

"I like your outfit," I said to break the ice.

"You could look real cute if you tried. Those jean cutoffs and Chucks have got to go." Pam's tone was condescending and I bristled. Pam noticed and sighed. Her voice was kinder when she continued, "You want a boyfriend, dontcha?"

"I guess." I shrugged. The thought hadn't crossed my mind.

"I know lots of guys. There's a bonfire tomorrow night at the lake. If you tell your grandma you're spending the night over here, we can sneak out." Pam looked at me, waiting. Why did this feel like a test?

I didn't say anything. Pam wasn't the chubby little girl I once knew. Old Pam wanted to do nothing more than play with Barbies in the front yard and go downtown to get a root beer float.

"Did you bring a bathing suit?" Pam prompted, and I nodded. "Bikini?" I looked at her, askance, shaking my head quickly. "I have one you can borrow. We'll wear bikini tops and skirts. Ditch the ball cap. Do you have Jellies?"

"You mean Jelly shoes?" I shook my head and Pam huffed. Evidently I was a lost cause.

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