Warm sunshine beat down on Jim as he parked the car and stepped out. Pam got out of the passenger side and turned around to watch Cece and Phil climb out of the backseat. He put on a baseball cap as his family gathered their belongings.
“Ready for a ballgame?” he asked excitedly.
“Yeah Dad!” Cece chirped loudly. She was wearing an Astros hat and jersey. She slipped her softball mitt onto her left hand and smacked a fist into the leather.
“This is gonna be great!” Phil agreed. He was also decked out in Astros gear. Unlike his sister he decided to put his own baseball glove on his head over top of his hat.
“Silly kid,” Jim said under his breath as he snaked an arm around Pam’s waist.
“Gee, I wonder where he gets that from?” Pam teased as they started to walk towards the gates of Minute Maid Park.
Jim just laughed as they joined the throngs of other baseball fans heading towards the stadium. Even though Jim had been to innumerable sporting events in his life, there was a different feel about the crowd this time. An air of excitement that had been missing for a long time. Glancing around, Jim saw plenty of people still wearing masks. However, more and more people were walking confidently without any face covering. The feeling of euphoria kept growing as they made their way closer to the stadium. After a long dry spell, things were finally starting to feel a lot closer to normal. It came as a surprise when Jim almost ran into his daughter since she had stopped dead in her tracks.
“Cece!” Jim admonished. “You can’t just stop like that.”
His daughter wasn’t listening. Her eyes were fixed on an older couple standing outside the stadium gates. The couple were scanning the crowd and appeared to be looking for someone. When the woman spotted Cece staring at her a huge smile bloomed on her face and she tapped the chest of the man standing next to her.
“Grandma! Grandpa!” The shout burst out of Cece’s mouth, and she tore off running towards Betsy and Gerald with Phil right behind her.
Now it was Jim’s turn to stop dead in his tracks. He couldn’t keep his lower jaw open and looked wide eyed at his wife.
“Happy Father’s Day,” Pam beamed at him. “Surprise!”
“When?” he asked.
“Their flight came in earlier today,” Pam replied. “They’ll be staying through the end of the week before heading back to Scranton.”
His expression of shock was quickly replaced with an expression of joy. Throwing his arms around Pam, he gave her a brief hug and kiss. Together Jim and Pam walked briskly to where his parents had Cece and Phil in bear hugs.
“Look at you two!” said Betsy as she wiped tears of joy from her eyes. “You’ve gotten so big!”
“We’ve loved all the drawings you’ve sent us Slugger.” Gerald told Phil.
“Mom, Dad,” Jim had a huge grin on his face as he stepped up to wrap his arms around his parents.
“It is so good to see you.” Betsy all but crushed her son in the first hug she’d been able to give him in over a year.
“You too mom,” Jim agreed with a grunt. He let go of Betsy to hug Gerald as well.
“Hey Jim. Working hard or hardly working?” Gerald asked.
Jim felt his throat tighten up on hearing the lame joke in person again. He wiped some mist from his eyes while Betsy and Gerald also greeted Pam with warm hugs as well. They joined the line to wait for the gates to open for the afternoon baseball game. Gerald and Jim brough up the rear of their group. The older Halpert nudged his son in the ribs and glanced down at the Astros jersey Jim was wearing.
“You’ve really gone over to the ‘Stros?”
Pulling a face he once perfected for the doc cameras, Jim unbuttoned the top two buttons of the jersey to show the Philles t-shirt he was wearing underneath.
“Never. But Phil is becoming a big fan of the Astros. So, why not?”
“Fair enough,” Gerald said and tipped the beat-up Phillies hat that had long been a staple of any Halpert baseball experience.
The gates opened and the now extended Halpert clan made their way into the stadium concourse. On the field the Astros were taking batting practice. Pam and Betsy split off to find their seats while Cece and Phil all but dragged Jim and Gerald towards a balcony with an oversized gas pump and lined up on the rail with other fans hoping to catch a ball hit their way. Several balls did come close, but they were unable to catch one before the Astros wrapped up their warm-up time. Jim and his children posed for a picture next to the large Phillips 66 pump which made Phil grin from ear to ear.
The four of them spent some time strolling through the stadium before finding Pam and Betsy and settling into their seats. The afternoon was filled with all the hallmarks of a day at the ballpark. Gerald spotted for hot dogs from a passing vendor while Jim paid for drinks. Cece and Phil got lost in the rhythm of the ball game as the Astros played the White Sox. After the seventh inning stretch Pam and Betsy disappeared briefly. When they returned to their seats, they had ice cream bars for everyone.
After the game Pam gave Gerald and Betsy directions to a nearby Dave and Buster’s restaurant where they had been planning on going for dinner. It was only a fifteen-minute drive from the stadium to the restaurant. Refilling their video game cards at the front desk, the family split up to enjoy the arcade. Cece became engrossed in the Star Wars X-Wing game while Pam and Betsy watched. Afterwards Betsy and Cece sat side by side in the Jurassic World game and did their best to tranquillize every rampaging dinosaur in front of their screen. Phil set up shop at the skee-ball ramp with Jim and Gerald on either side of him.
“Going to try some other games?” Gerald asked his grandson.
Phil answered without taking his eyes away from the ramp. He sent another ball sailing into the fifty-point ring. “No way! I only need two hundred more tickets and I’ll have enough for a Nerf gun!”
“He’s been after it ever since restaurants opened back up,” Jim supplied.
“Why not go for the hundred-point rings then?” Gerald pointed to the smaller targets.
“Because grandpa,” Phil said in exasperation. “If I miss, I only get ten. If I miss the fifty ring it’ll probably bounce down into the forty or thirty ring.”
Gerald nodded approvingly before looking back up at Jim. “Smart kid.”
“He gets it from Pam,” Jim smirked.
Soon they were out of credits on their arcade cards. Phil had won enough tickets and was proudly examining every inch of the box holding his new Nerf gun. Cece regaled anyone who would listen about how she had set a new high score on the X-Wing game. Pam and Betsy were grinning as well. Together they combined their winnings at the arcade and were able to secure three free appetizers when they sat down at a table.
“Other than playing with the kids, any plans while you guys are in town?” Pam asked once their drinks arrived at the table.
“Gerald wants to make his so-called pilgrimage,” Betsy said with good humor.
“The whiskey vault?” Jim asked his father.
Gerald raised his glass of bourbon in salute. “What self-respecting MB would pass up the opportunity to visit the vault?”
Cece piped up. “What’s an MB?”
“I’ll tell you when you’re older,” Gerald told his granddaughter.
“Magnificent bastard,” Betsy whispered into Pam’s ear from across the table which caused Pam to almost snort her Coke out of her nose.
“Easy there honey,” Jim smirked as he gave his wife a few thumps on her back.
“Mommy’s silly,” Phil grinned.
“Yes, she is,” Jim agreed, his impudent smile still firmly attached to his face.
“Keep it up buddy,” Pam warned when she got herself under control.
Jim raised his hands in mock-surrender while the laughter of Cece and Phil continued to drift over the table.
“It’s what us fine members of the Whiskey Tribe call ourselves,” Gerald told Pam. “You remember the first time you saw my whiskey den back in Scranton? Think something like that, but with ten times as many bottles on the wall.”
Their meals arrived soon after. Once they were done with dinner and the check was taken care of, they all headed back out to the parking lot. Gerald and Betsy’s rental car was parked next to Jim and Pam’s Subaru. Pam was digging in her purse as they approached the vehicles.
“Here you go Gerald,” she said as she tossed him the keys.
“Wait a minute,” Jim looked between Pam and his dad. “What’s going on?”
“Here you go Pam,” Gerald tossed the rental keys back to Pam.
Betsy was already at the Subaru and was pulling two bags out of the truck and handed them to Pam before looking at Jim. “You two go have fun. We’ll take care of the kids tonight.”
“Who wants to stay up late and watch movies?” Gerald asked Cece and Phil.
“Meeeee!” Phil started jumping up and down.
“Me too,” Cece was just as excited. “I know where mom keeps the good ice cream too.”
After an exchange of good-byes and hugs, Jim and Pam were back on the road with Pam driving. A fifteen-minute drive back towards downtown Houston revealed their destination. Jim raised an eyebrow in appreciation as Pam turned into the parking ramp.
“Hotel Icon? Not bad. Where is all this coming from?”
Pam grinned back at her husband. “Ask me again when we get to our room.”
It didn’t take long to park the car and check in at the desk. Stepping out of the elevator on their floor, Pam led the way to their room. A large king size bed dominated the room while an impressive vista of the city skyline framed the windows. Lights from the city were starting to twinkle on as evening fell. Bold red accents added color to the room. A spacious bathroom was revealed with a large jacuzzi tub within.
“Honey,” Jim said in amazement after exploring the room. “You didn’t have to do all this. We have a tub like that back at home.”
“I know,” Pam answered. “But when was the last time either of us were able to use it without one of the kids wanting to jump in too?”
“Good point,” Jim admitted.
“More than that,” Pam took his hands in hers and went on. “I wanted to give you something special for Father’s Day this year. I can’t begin to tell you how much I’ve appreciated you working from home, especially when the kids had to transition to at home learning. It was hard enough facing everything without also having to basically learn how to be a second teacher to both of them. You kept the kids on top of their schoolwork and chores, helped keep the house tidy, and made sure Wade and the other partners had nothing to complain about. I don’t know how you managed to do all that. So, this is my Father’s Day gift to you. A night of just us. I packed some nice outfits for both of us if you want to head out and get some drinks.”
Before Pam could go on, Jim pulled her close and cut her off with a deep kiss. His fingers tangled in her hair while she more than enthusiastically returned his affection.
“What if I want to just stay in here with you?” He grinned at her.
“That works too,” she grinned back at him.
“That tub looks big enough for two,” Jim said with a mischievous glint in his eye.
Pam leaned up to kiss him again. She raked her fingernails down his chest when she broke the kiss. “Go get it started. I’ll call for some champagne,” she whispered back.
Returning to the bathroom, Jim started filling the tub. Once it was full to his satisfaction, he shed his clothes and stepped in. He breathed out a deep sigh of contentment as the hot water started to relax his muscles. Closing his eyes, he turned on the jets of the tub. Soon after a soft knock on the door made him open his eyes.
Pam was standing in the doorway to the bathroom holding two champagne flutes and a bottle of wine. She was wearing a black silk robe with red floral patterns embroidered on in. Setting the glasses down on the edge of the tub, she popped the cork of the bottle and poured for the two of them. She stood back up and untied strip of silk holding the robe closed at her waist. Bringing her hands up to her shoulders, the robe slid off her shoulders with a whisper against her bare skin. Stepping into the tub, Pam settled in with her back against his chest and handed him his glass.
“Thank you, Morgan,” he said after he pressed soft kisses to her shoulder. “I love you so much.”
She hummed with pleasure as her eyes closed at the sensation of his lips on her skin. “You’re welcome Jamie. I love you too.”
The glasses of champagne were set down on the floor after their first sip when the two of them found much better things to do than hold wine glasses.