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Pam had her slippers on and her hair piled haphazardly in a lopsided ponytail on top of her head. She was halfway through her nightly routine of cleaning up after dinner. She washed her dishes by hand first, even though her apartment had a small dishwasher. She couldn't tolerate the length of time it took a single person, with no visitors, to fill up that white cubicle with enough dishes to justify running it. It was unpleasant for her to think about how long her plates had to sit there, wiped clean of her macaroni and cheese or grilled chicken breast or frozen dinner, before they actually got a thorough washing.

Next she wiped down every surface of her kitchen with at least a quick once-over. She enjoyed this routine; it seemed to put a comma between her afternoon and evening, and it gave her something to fill up the long hours she spent between getting home from work and going to bed.

The phone rang just as she picked up the dishrag that February evening.

She sighed, wiped her hands on a towel and clicked the phone on. She knew before she answered who it was. She knew it would be just about the only person who called her these days.

"Hi Mom."

And right away, Pam and her mother launched into what Pam thought of as that delicate mother-daughter dance of speech: saying not much of anything, but yet, saying so much between and underneath the words.

"Hi dear. What are you doing this evening? Staying out of the snow?"
*Are you alone again? Do you have plans?*

Pam peered out of the blinds. It was dark, and she looked across the street at the streetlight.

"It's not snowing here yet, I think it's supposed to start later. I was just washing dishes."
*I have a dishwasher but it gives me something useful to do, washing them myself.*

"How was work today?"
*Did you talk to him today?*

"It was fine. Really slow. You know how people are with snowstorms these days, a few inches of snow and the world comes to an end. Seems like people went home early today all over the state, for all the work that got done." *I sat at my desk and cruised the internet a little and played some Sudoku and solitaire. And no, I did not talk to Jim.*

"Hmm. Well, I'm glad you're home."
*It breaks my heart to think of you, alone again, washing your own dishes by hand. I know you're lonely.*

"Yeah, me too."
*Where else would I be, Mom? You know it's not my art class night.....*

There was a pause. A quick breath, and then Diane Beesly decided to come out with it.

"Hey, didn't you say that wedding is next weekend? Your coworker's wedding?"
*This could be a chance. At least a chance for you to get out of your apartment and do something enjoyable, something other than sitting at home in front of the TV.*

"Yeah, a week from this Saturday."
*Mom...please. Don't start.*

"That sounds nice. Do you know what you're wearing?"
*Are you going with anyone?*

"Well....I haven't really thought about it too much. I have that suit I wore in Derek's wedding...."
*The one that a woman 30 years older than me would wear, that my sister-in-law Jo picked out for me--probably to get me back for some slight I don't even remember....*

"...And my black dress. You know the one, I wore it to Justin's wedding last fall."
*And it's so old, I never liked it, and I don't look good in black. I only bought it because I was newly in my first 'real job' (what a joke that has turned out to be) and all the magazines said I needed an LBD: A Little Black Dress. So I got one, and I've worn and reworn it over the years even though I know it's not that flattering on me.*

"What about your blue dress, the one you wore in Lindsay's wedding a couple of summers ago?"
*It's out of season, but better than that black dress.*

*Oh, no. Please don't latch onto that....*

"Oh...... well, I thought you liked that dress...."
*What was THAT?*

Pam paused. "I used to, it's just...kinda out of style now. I'm not going to wear it....anymore."
*Great. You're on to me.*

"Oh. Well I thought it was really pretty on you."
*You must have been wearing that dress the night Jim spoke; that night back in May. Wow....you won't even wear it again....*

"Yeah, I don't know. I'm just....not going to wear it."
*Why don't I just tell you that Jim kissed me in that dress and I could never put it on again, and I could never get rid of it either, so it hangs behind my high school cap and gown...the relic that it is. A blue dress and a memory and that's all I've got of that night....why don't I just tell you that, and you can worry over me some more. And probably drive here through a snowstorm to bring me some brownies and brush my hair and give me a manicure...*

"Listen, I have a fantastic idea."
*Please say yes, please say yes, I know you need this.*

Pam's mother continued. "Why don't we go to Philadelphia this weekend, just you and I. A girl's weekend. We'll stay in a nice hotel and eat nice meals and go buy you a new dress. My treat."
*Please let me do this for you, Pam...*

"I don't know, Mom."
*I'm pretty comfortable sitting at home, in my PJ's at seven o'clock, watching stupid TV and trying to paint something. Anything.*

"I've been wanting to do it for the longest time, and the dress shopping is a perfect excuse."
*It's not working. Time to pull out all the stops*

"I really need a getaway myself. Such a doldrum-y time of year" her mother continued.
*I've almost got her.*

"...I don't know."
*Who says 'doldrum-y', other than my mother?*

"I mean......." Pam stammered.
*I have no excuse, so here we go.*

"I think we should do it, Pam. I really would like that."
*You're a good girl, and I just played the 'I need this' card, so I know you're hooked. I've got you-- reluctantly, but got you.*

"Okay, I guess."
*You got me. Dammit.*

"Fantastic! Let's plan on me picking you up from your work on Friday, and we can leave straight from there, OK? That will give us some time on Friday night, all day on Saturday, and we'll come home Sunday after brunch."
*Thank God. One weekend I don't have to picture you all alone in that tiny apartment again, one weekend I can be with you. And maybe, if I go into your work, I can catch a look at Jim and this Karen....*

"Alright, Mom. I guess a new dress would be nice. Thanks."
*Yeah, a new dress. So I guess Kevin or Michael or Toby or Stanley can admire it. Perfect.*

"OK, I'll call you with more details as it gets closer." She paused on the other end. And actually said what she thought, quietly: "I think this will do you some good, sweetie."

And Pam actually said what she thought as well. "Yeah, maybe it will. Thanks, Mom."

"OK, I love you. Be careful in the snow."

"I will, Mom. Love you too, talk to you later."

*We managed not to talk about Jim.*
*She's nowhere near getting over Jim.*
Chapter End Notes:
About 10 chapters in all, one per day. Thank you for reading.

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