From Pam of Babylon by Suzanne Jenkins
Jack Smith was thinking, I am the luckiest man alive. Sitting at a white-linen-covered table on the sidewalk outside of his favorite restaurant, he gazed at the perfect face of his mistress of nine months. This place was their place. They’d spent a rare night together, and in the early morning they could have a leisurely breakfast, enjoying the perfect weather of late May in New York.
“What do you have to do this weekend?” Jack asked, knowing this could be a dangerous topic. Sandra was sipping her coffee, head bowed but eyes on him. She slowly put her cup down and straightened up. He really wanted to know. He was interested in her life outside of where it meshed with his.
“After you leave, I’ll start getting ready for the week, and then I can relax tonight and tomorrow. Monday I’m having lunch at my sister’s in New Jersey. My schedule next week is fairly packed, so the more I can get done now, the easier it will be.” She thought of her messy apartment, the empty refrigerator, the pile of laundry, but didn’t mention it. Jack’s solution to it would be to say, pay someone to do those things for you so you can do what you want. Your time is worth more than what it would cost. “One thing I would really like to do is get back to that gallery on Houston and see if there isn’t a deal I can work out for the piece we saw last night.” She smiled at Jack and they nodded their heads, remembering the vibrant painting of the Riverside Gardens. It was so colorful, the yellows and reds and blues exaggerated, the flowers oversized. They loved it.
“You should have said something while we were there!” he said, smiling at her. She knew he would have bought it then and there for her. But she really wanted to buy it for herself. She knew it was wise to keep things like community property out of their relationship.
They ate the rest of their breakfast in silence. Soon, Jack would start fidgeting, pushing his chair back slightly, looking around him and fighting the urge to look at his watch. Their time together would be over for now. Sandra would try to beat him to the punch; it was easier for her to be in control of this aspect of their life. His schedule would dictate when they could see each other, but she could be in charge of when it would end. She hated those last minutes while they waited for the check to come, feeling like she was sitting in a vacuum. Today was a little different, maybe because of the night before. It was so special having the evening together and then spending the night with him. The hotel was the same one they always used. It was clean and comfortable and—impersonal. But she didn’t allow herself to think of it.
He suggested early on that they go to her apartment, but she didn’t know how long they would be together and didn’t want those associations in her home. It would be hard enough to end the relationship without memories of him permeating where she lived. No thank you. It would be bad enough having to see him at work every day. Besides, he was wealthy enough to afford a hotel, and she was worth it.
He would not have argued if he knew what she was thinking. On one hand, he was wondering what was taking so long to get the check, as he had a lot to do at home, but on the other he would miss her terribly. It took all the strength he had not to pout like a child when he was away from her. He thought of his home, close to the sea, the smell of salt air. He imagined the two of them sitting on the veranda overlooking the beach grass. But the face of his wife kept popping up on Sandra’s body, not allowing anyone to take her place, even in his thoughts.
She walked him to the subway, refusing to have him walk her home first. He often preferred the subway over taking a cab. She would shop on the way home and he had a long commute, over an hour to his home on Long Island. They walked arm in arm, a striking couple to look at. He mature, graying at the temples and in good shape for his age; she young, model thin and beautiful. Heads turned to look. Were they famous? The attention they got when they were out in public together pleased them and they became even more animated, laughing, standing up straighter, happiness radiating from them both.
On Broadway, another observer took note of the radiant couple. Jack’s sister-in-law, Marie waited in the Saturday-morning bagel line at H&H. She happened to be uptown because of having gone to the theatre the night before with her friend, Arthur, staying the night at his apartment. Marie stood with her mouth open, heat spreading through her body, shocked and furious. The man behind her tapped her on the shoulder; it was her turn already.
“Never mind, go ahead,” she said as she moved out of line. Her body turned toward her brother-in-law as his back and that of his companion continued down the street toward the subway. She inched along the pavement staying close to the storefronts, not wanting to be seen, but dying to see. When they reached the subway the woman, a girl really, didn’t go down the stairs with him. Marie found it incredible that Jack was going to take the subway. What the hell was that all about? The couple stood at the entrance to the stairs talking, his arm around her shoulder protectively. It was clear that they were a couple, not just work associates, not just friends.
Standing out of sight in a doorway, Marie could barely tolerate the physical sensations she was experiencing. Her entire body was vibrating. It was a combination of disgust, shock, and excitement. She had loved Jack as her brother. She was certain her sister, Pam had no idea her husband was cheating on her. Pam would have said something. Marie didn’t yet think of the implications this would have on her relationship with her sister. If she didn’t know, it would remain that way because Marie wasn’t going to tell her. She would confront Jack and insist he tell Pam. That was the only way. Let him do the dirty work. Her patience paid off; Jack took the girl into his arms. He didn’t look around first to see if they were being observed, although this was a neighborhood in which his relatives lived. Then they kissed. He kissed her passionately; she reached up and with her arms around him, kissed him back. They parted, reluctance obvious to all who looked upon them, intimacy flourishing in a public place. Jack went down the subway stairs, looking behind him and smiling. The young woman stood there smiling down at him, waiting to move away until he was out of sight.
Marie watched as the young woman, beautiful in a white sundress, turned her back to the stairs and starting walking up Broadway. Marie didn’t have all day to play detective, but she knew that for her sister’s sake, she would need to find out as much as she could about this person. So she followed her, supposing she was headed for home but having no way of knowing. She stayed about half a block behind her. Watching her from the back, she made mental notes: tall; slender (of course); long, dark hair. Marie thought the woman should be blonde, but that didn’t make any sense. She told herself to just keep walking. When they got to 80th Street, the woman crossed and went into Zabar’s. There was no way Marie was going in. She would wait outside for a few minutes. She didn’t have all day. If the woman was doing a big shopping trip, Marie would leave. She stood across Broadway watching, not wanting to miss it when she left the store. She looked up at the sky and could see blue between the buildings, sunlight peeking down from the east. It was going to be a beautiful weekend. Memorial Day was Monday. Marie was going to her sister’s house on Long Island for a picnic. She had been looking forward to it all month. Now this.
The young woman stepped out of Zabar’s with two bags of groceries. She turned left and started walking up Broadway again with Marie following closely behind. When she got to 82nd she turned left, walking toward West End. It figures, Marie thought, remembering her own apartment in no-man’s land. About midway down the block she made another left and walked up to a lovely beige-brick mid-century. She turned the key in the lock, opened the door and disappeared from sight. Marie stood in the center of the sidewalk, disappointed. Well, she had an address, just in case.
She walked back to Broadway, thinking about what she’d seen all the way. She wanted to call Jack’s cell and tell him off. Suddenly, overcome with nausea, she moved to the curb and threw up in the gutter.
About the author:
Suzanne Jenkins writes contemporary fiction, a reflection of American fantasy but with historical reality. Pam of Babylon books consistently rank in the Top 100 Best Sellers in American Drama with over 500,000 downloads.
A second series, The Greektown Stories, includes The Greeks of Beaubien Street, The Princess of Greektown, Christmas in Greektown and A Greektown Wedding.
Stand alone novels include Someone Like You, Alice's Summertime Adventure, The Savant of Chelsea, Slow Dancing, The Liberation of Ravenna Morton and Atlas of Women.
Burn District, Jenkins new sci/fi series, follows an American family as they flee from political insanity to save their lives in the Arizona Desert.
Her short story, Vapor appeared in Willow Review, Spring 2013.
A retired operating room nurse, Jenkins divides her time between the west Michigan lake shore, the Brandywine River Valley, and the mountains of Southern California
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