The noise around her was deafening. Cheering, yelling, calling out for friends. A boy in the red jacket she was so used to passed next to her and she almost crashed into the left row of lockers that aligned in both sides of the corridors.
“Sorry, ma’am!” he yelled over his shoulder, not really caring, Pam was sure.
Smiling sympathetically to herself, she kept on walking towards the open gates, where more cheering could be heard. “Go Knights!” got mixed with “We won! We won! We won!”, and the yells of uniformed players and cheerleaders calling out for friends or family.
Pam glanced at the screen of her phone. Of course, no messages, missed calls or anything of the sort. Nothing new there.
Another person bumped into her shoulder, but this time the voice was much deeper and the man, wearing a long black overcoat, actually stopped and turned around.
“I’m sorry. Are you ok?”
“Yeah, fine,” she said, her eyes on her phone again where a new message had just appeared.
Meet you in 5 by the car.
“Wait, I know you!”
Pam looked up from her screen and her eyes had to travel far up to meet the man’s green ones, shining over a well-kept beard.
“Sorry?” she said, feeling in her guts that she had to know this person. That is was urgent to remember-
“Pam? Pam… Anderson?”
And it hit her. Like a ton of bricks, like a punch in the gut, like a sudden kiss shared in a deserted dingy bullpen, like the past coming full force to get her.
“Jim?” she gasped, and the bearded man grinned, turning the stranger into what once had been one of her favourite sights in the world.
“I can’t believe it!” he said, and before she knew, she was being engulfed into a sort of clumsy hug that finished very soon but not so much for her not to notice that the smell was both familiar and very different.
“Wow,” she said, “long time no see.”
“Yeah,” he nodded and for an eternal silent second Pam felt awkwardness creeping over.
“What brings you here?” she asked, trying to stop that feeling.
“Oh, uhm… I came for the game with my sister and my nephew. Since I was in town…” he trailed off.
“Small world. I didn’t know your sister had a son here…”
“Yeah, he’s mostly on the bench these days, but I hope he’ll get some action soon.”
“He has it in his blood,” Pam commented. She felt her phone buzzing in her hand, but Jim was talking again.
“I hope so. At least he is tall.”
“You gotta start with something, I guess,” Pam said, shrugging at her own shallow comment.
Without really thinking, she started walking towards the exit. Jim’s steps matched hers in a second, and she could hear both sets now that the corridors were emptying.
“How long are you gonna be in town?” she asked.
Jim’s shoulders seemed to drop an inch or two. “I don’t know. Couple of weeks. My dad passed away last week,” he added, as an afterthought.
“What?” Pam stopped and looked at him.
“We were expecting it. He’d been ill for a while. And he went in peace.” Jim tried to smile. “There’s still some stuff to do, you know. Sorting out papers, seeing that my mom will be fine… and in the middle of all this, Jonah didn’t want to come to his first game of the season. So Larissa and I talked him into coming. You know, keeping his mind off things.”
Pam reached out and placed a hand on his arm. “I am so sorry, Jim.”
He shrugged again. “It is what it is.”
“Still… is there something I could do?”
This time his smile was a little broader. A little more real. “You haven’t changed a bit, you know.” She smiled, not sure if that was true, or if it was a good or a bad thing. “Thank you…” Jim spoke again, “I’ll be ok.”
“Still,” she repeated, and gave his arm a little squeeze before dropping her hand.
“Thank you,” he said, and this time it was he who started walking and she the one who matched his steps.
Silence fell between them, and Pam racked her brain for something to say, something meaningful to ask. But the fact was, she had really no idea what to talk about with this man who had become a stranger.
A strong yell interrupted her thoughts and she turned to see the two boys running at her.
“We were waiting as you told us, what took you this long?”
“Sorry guys, ran into a friend.”
Only then the two boys seemed to notice Jim.
“This is an old friend, Jim. Jim, these are Jack and Lewis. My kids.”