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When Michael finally left, Jim locked the front door defensively. Pam chuckled.

“Afraid he might come back?”

“Aren’t you?”

She smiled, then gestured toward the living room. “I’ll help you clean up.”

They gathered plates and cups and other booze-and-karaoke-induced litter. Jim was holding a big garbage bag for Pam when he saw the rain start to fall.

“Oh – there’s still stuff outside. Let’s –”

“Oh, sure.”

They grabbed their coats, then raced to shuttle everything inside. When they finished, Jim remembered the grill cover. It was Mark’s grill, and Mark had retired to Becky’s for the night. “Here, help me with this.”

“Okay.” She closed the sliding glass door behind her.

By the time they had they figured out that the cover was inside out – no, wait, now it’s inside out – okay, now it’s on – rain was coming down in sheets.

Jim nearly took the handle off the door trying to open it again.

“Oh…no. No, no, no.”

“What?”

“It’s locked.” Back door: locked. Front door: locked. Mark: enjoying his girlfriend’s toasty bed. No house keys, no car keys. No cell phone. “Shit.”

Pam tugged at his sleeve. “The playhouse!”

They ditched their coats just inside the little doorway, and crawled to the back. They sat, panting a little, shoulder to shoulder. There was no avoiding that.

She smiled. “Nice lights, by the way.”

“Thanks,” he chuckled, eyeing the ceiling warily. “I hope this thing doesn’t leak.”

“You mean you don’t come out here and play house in the rain?”

“Nah. Ever since my tea set broke, it hasn’t been as much fun.”

She giggled. He smiled and looked at her wet hair and pink nose, and shrugged. The movement of his shoulder against hers made her skin tingle.

“So Phyllis was in fine form tonight. Who knew she was a hair band groupie?”

She laughed. “Yes! Hidden depths. And, of course, Michael. A fan of all genres, apparently.”

“Painfully apparent.”

Hesitantly, “You know, you have a pretty nice voice.” She looked down. “You should sing more.”

He looked at her, wishing he had a reason. “Yeah?”

“Yeah.” She remembered him winking at her as he had sung making love with each other, and was glad he couldn’t see her blush in the dark. For distraction, she crawled forward on her hands and knees to peek out at the rain. It continued to pound mercilessly, splashing about a foot into the door.

Behind her, Jim was trying to breathe. Jesus. If she kept up poses like that, he was gonna to need to step outside for a few minutes. He reached forward and grabbed one of her belt loops, dragging her back. “C’mon, you’ll get soaked.”

Her stomach did a little flip as she let herself be pulled backwards. She settled in beside him, glad for the warmth. Then she remembered what Phyllis had said, and wondered if this was okay.

He nudged her.

“Hm?”

“I asked if you were cold.”

“Oh.” She realized she was hugging herself. “Yeah, a little.”

“Well, it is November.” When he reached forward to pull their coats back, she followed the curve of his back from his shoulder to his –

“Hm. Yours is pretty soaked. Not really meant for rain, huh?”

“Oh, no. Guess not.”

“Here. Share mine.” He spread his raincoat over their laps, then put his arms underneath. Almost instantly, she could feel the heat radiating from him. “I’m not sure this is going to let up any time soon.”

The heat? “What?”

“The rain. I think we’re in this for a while.”

She looked at him sheepishly. “Sorry I locked us out.”

He shrugged again, causing another thrill on her skin. “Eh. It’s an adventure, right? How many chances for adventure do you get in Scranton?”

Not many, she thought. Not enough.

She yawned.

“Uh-oh. Party fatigue. Too much karaoke.”

“Too many dorky yearbook photos.” She smiled at him.

He shook his head. “That’s going to haunt me, isn’t it?”

“No, it’s going to haunt me.”

He made a sound of mock insult and suddenly was tickling her sides. She squealed and tried to get away, but was pretty much pinned between Jim and two walls. He was enjoying the feeling of her wriggling under his fingers, the sound of her gasping laughter.

“Stop! I give! Pleeeaase!”

He pulled away and she missed him immediately.

“Mm-hm, that’s what I thought. Any other smart remarks?”

“No.” Residual giggles.

“Alright, then. Behave yourself.”

She smiled and yawned again.

He looked down at her and took a chance. “C’mere.” He raised his arm, making room for her under it.

She looked at him warily.

“No more tickling, I promise.”

She hesitated only briefly, then scooted against him. His arm came down around her shoulders, heavy and warm. His hand rested on her outside arm. She leaned into him. It’s okay. It’s a playhouse in the rain in November. An adventure. His chest rose and fell against her ear, and she could hear his heart through sweater, then shirt, then skin. Skin. The thought made something funny happen low in her belly. She closed her eyes tightly.

Her hands were on his thigh. Does she know that? He was trying to keep his breathing steady, since she could surely already hear his heart pounding. She smelled like Pam, only intensified by the rain, and he needed a distraction.

“So…how ‘bout a lullaby? Gimme a chance to practice my singing.”

“Sure.”

“Well, there’s one that my mom used to sing to us. Let’s see…oh, yeah.” He cleared his throat. “I liiike biiig butts and I cannot lie…

She snorted.

“Nice, Beesly. You can get my sweater cleaned tomorrow.”

She hit him lightly on his stomach, then left her hand there. “Sing something nice.”

“That wasn’t nice? Wow, you’re very demanding. Um…okay, how ‘bout this?”

And he began singing a song she’d never heard, something slow and soothing. His voice vibrated into her and he smelled like Jim, only stronger, and she sighed against him. He squeezed her arm and kept singing until her breathing was shallow and even.

When he was sure she slept, he touched his lips to her hair, breathed deeply, and whispered, “Sweet dreams.”

x x x x x

His feet were wet.

Her shoulder hurt.

The inside of the playhouse was light.

They were both awake, pretending to be asleep.

In the night, they had eased down off the back wall, and now lay spooned together on the floor. Jim’s arm hugged her waist, his hand was under her sweater. He wanted to move his fingers, to feel the soft skin there…but didn’t dare wake her. His nose was buried in her hair, which had dried into riotous curls. He breathed her in.

She felt his warmth the entire length of her body, solid, protective. His hand was on her stomach and she wished she could feel his fingers move against her skin. She wanted to keep backing into him, his warmth, his –…but didn’t dare wake him. She could feel his breath on her neck, slow and steady. She closed her eyes.

They pretended until Mark stuck his head in the doorway.

“Hey, sleepyheads! Camping out?”

They both sat up abruptly.

“You’re back.”

“We, uh, got locked out.”

“Oh, okay, well it’s open now, and I’ve got coffee on…”

“Cool, thanks, man.”

“Thanks, Mark.”

“Sure.” They watched him head back to the house, then smiled shyly at each other.

“Morning.”

“Morning.”

“You sleep okay?”

“Surprisingly well. You?”

Very well.”

“I guess we should, um…”

“Yeah…”

She looked around for her coat and found it at her feet. As she reached for it, Jim spotted a long, blond hair on her sweater and plucked it off. She found something, too.

“Hey, what’s this?” she asked, showing it to him.

He started chuckling. “It’s a paintball.” He showed her the blond hair he still held between his fingers.

She looked between them, then horror dawned on her face.

“Oh! No! Ew! Ew-ew-ew!” She was shaking her head and involuntarily brushing something invisible from her clothing. “Ew.”

She looked at him, and he began laughing.

“I guess we weren’t the first ones to find the playhouse.”

She shuddered and crawled out the door. “You realize you have to condemn it now.”

He looked around the inside, and when he spoke, it was too softly for her to hear.

“Not just yet.”


nomadshan is the author of 44 other stories.
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