By Jeannie Yee Davis
She flipped through the day’s mail, stopping when she came across a white envelope with her return address label. Her heart beat its way out of her chest as she read the large words, Return to sender, not at this address. The phrase was neatly written in blue ink on the envelope of the birthday card she sent Wayne a few weeks ago. She shouldn’t be surprised. She knew this moment would come one day, but one day came sooner than she expected. Now it indeed was over whether she wanted it to be or not.
She stood in the hallway, motionless except for the tears trickling down her cheeks. With trembling hands, she clutched the card against her chest. The last few years flashed across her mind as she recalled what happened.
It had been almost two years since she listened as the machine played his phone message, “Hello Pam. It’s Wayne. We need to get together. Call me.”
“Oh, what should I do?” she thought. “I’ll call him in a few days. Maybe then I would’ve cooled off.” She didn’t believe she would, but she was hopeful. Two weeks later, “Oh, crumb. I should call Wayne back.” She picked up the phone but dropped it back down on the cradle. Picked up. Dropped it again. Looked at her watch, “10:30. It’s late. Maybe he won’t pick up.” She took a deep breath, picked up, and dialed. Her call went straight to voicemail. “Hi, Wayne. It’s me. Sorry I didn’t call sooner. Been busy. I’ll call you when things calm down, ‘k? Bye.”
The 4 x 6 glossy of Wayne with his dimpled smile stared at her when Pam opened her wooden keepsake box to put Wayne’s card in it. She gingerly picked up the photo. Beneath it was the velvet mauve baby rose he bought for her from the airport newsstand. She picked it up, smiling, blinking back the tears remembering the day they met.
She was working for the flight Wayne took on his business trip to Singapore. “Hello.” She said when he came on board. He glanced at her and forced a smile. She watched him find his seat. “There goes one sad puppy,” she thought and vowed to cheer him up before the flight was over.
She checked on him often. With each pass, she noticed his demeanor softened. She was pleased, but then she noticed him staring and smiling at her more than he should. “Oh, great! He thinks I like him!” She stayed away from him. “He’s not giving up,” she thought when she peered his way, locking eyes with him. She felt a flutter in her heart. She blushed and smiled back at him. A small turbulence jerked the plane, breaking her gaze away from him.
He came towards her. She busied herself in the service station. He peeked in and asked, “How long is your layover in Singapore?”
“How about dinner with me then?”
“Great. It’s a date.”
They saw each other over the next three years. He had gone through a bad marriage of fourteen years. After the first four years, his wife stopped being a wife. He was starved for affection.
Although Pam wasn’t divorced like Wayne was, she shared his plight. Pam’s marriage to Michael began just as she had always dreamed it would be, full of love, passion, and best friends. Even when he bought the construction company he worked for; they planned their crazy schedules to make time for each other.
After their first anniversary, they decided to start a family. She became pregnant within weeks but miscarried a month later. They were both devastated. They agreed to try again in a year. When they did, she had no problem conceiving. Keeping the baby was another story. They lost the second baby soon after. He didn’t say a word during the drive home from the hospital. She thought he just needed to be alone. When he tucked her into bed, she turned to smile at him, catching the scowl on his face. He quickly turned away. She wasn’t supposed to see that, but she did. She reached for him, “I’m sorry about our baby.” He moved just out of her reach.
“Remember what you said when we were dating?” he asked. “You said you didn’t want children, remember that?”
“Yes, but I…”
“You got your wish,” he interrupted.
“I wish I never said that because I…” he turned and walked out before she could tell him she changed her mind once the baby was inside her. She wanted those babies just as much, if not more than he did, but he didn’t give her a chance to tell him that.
This was the turning point in their marriage. They both wallowed in depression, withdrawing from each other, and their marriage. They became like housemates who saw each other in passing, rarely saying a word to the other.
Their marriage floundered. Michael sought solace in his work, and so did she until Wayne came into her life. He became her solace. They each supplied the other’s emotional needs.
One evening she came home as Michael walked down the stairs without taking his eyes off her. She glanced at him noticing warmth in his eyes and a smile like the ones he used to give her. She took off her coat and prepared for silence like usual. Only he surprised her with, “Are you glowing? I’ve forgotten how beautiful you are.” She dropped her coat when he pulled her towards him and kissed her.
The following months were bliss. “Okay, hon, I got you down,” she jotted Michael down with her red pen into her organizer. William Tell rang out from her cell. “Hello, Wayne. Ah-ha got it. I’ll see you there.” She took out a blue pen and noted her date with him. Mozart chimed from her cell. “Did you forget something, Michael? Okay, I will.” She was living a dream juggling between two gorgeous men.
She took one last look in the mirror. Pam checked for lipstick on her teeth. She fluffed through her hair before heading out on the gangway into the airport. She straightened her dark blue uniform as her eyes swept the lobby for Wayne.
“There you are! I’ve missed you so much,” he said.
“I’ve missed you too.” She flew into his embracing arms and was kissing him when she felt someone watching them. She turned to find Michael standing a couple of feet away with a bouquet of white roses in one hand and a look of disgust on his face. “Michael,” she called out, pushing Wayne away. Michael tossed the roses on the ground and ran off. She grabbed the flowers and raced after him. She didn’t catch up with him until she got home.
He was pacing the living room floor when she walked in. He sat down on the couch but didn’t say anything and didn’t look up. She felt a chill go through her. She waited for him to speak. He didn’t.
“I’m sorry, Michael.” He didn’t answer. “Please talk to me!”
“I don’t know what to say to you right now. I can’t believe what I saw out there.”
“I’m sorry, Michael!”
“Is this why you’ve been glowing?” He asked. “How long has this been going on?”
“About three years,” she replied. “I swear I’ve never done anything like this before, and I never will again.”
He ran upstairs. Pam raced after him.
“Michael, what are you doing?”
“What does it look like I’m doing?”
“Please stop packing! Forgive me. I won’t ever see him again. I promise. Will you stop a minute? Please…stop!”
“I could forgive you anything but this. This is one thing that I could never forgive you for.”
Pam realized what she had done and told him to stop packing because it was his house, and she’s the one who messed up so she’ll leave. She packed up and left.
She became a recluse at a motel near the airport. Weeks went by. Nothing changed. One morning it was clear she needed to do something. That day she gave her two weeks’ notice and moved from her San Francisco airport motel to a motel in Grants Pass. She had visited a friend in Grants Pass years ago and remembered the feel of coming home and knew that’s where she belonged.
Two years had gone by before she received the card back in the mail. She buried her past when she began her new life, but today she reflected on her old life. She pondered her mistakes and decided if she had it all to do over again, she wouldn’t have messed up her life with Michael. He was the love of her life. If she had another chance, she’d do it right. She left Wayne at the airport that day and never looked back. She realized now she wasn’t sad about losing Wayne. She had blamed him for her broken marriage. Recognizing this, she needed to talk to him to ask for his forgiveness. She dialed his cell number, hoping it was still good.
He picked up on the fourth ring. “Hello?”
“Happy belated birthday,” she said.
“I sent you a birthday card, but it came back.”
“Sorry I moved. Let me give you my new address,” Wayne said. “What have you been up to?”
“I’m a travel columnist at The Voice Magazine now.”
“That’s a big change. How did that happen?”
“When I moved here to Grants Pass, I was at a coffee shop looking over the want ads when I overheard a couple talking about a columnist position opened at The Voice Magazine. The Voice Magazine building was just down the street, so I called for an interview. I lucked out when Roberta, the hiring manager, had a cancellation and agreed to see me.”
“Well, what do you know?” he said. “I didn’t know you were into writing.”
“That’s because it was a long time ago. I majored in journalism. Roberta thought my ten-years as a flight attendant would help with writing a travel column. Even though I had no journalism experience, she hired me on the spot.”
“Thanks. Wayne, the reason for my call is to ask your forgiveness.”
“I’ve been blaming you for ruining my marriage. It wasn’t your fault.”
“It was both our faults,” he said.
“I’m not calling to get back together…”
“I know. It hurt when you left, but you forced me to put my life into perspective. Now I have Joyce. We’re very happy together.”
“I’m happy for you.”
“Thanks. I’ve got to go. Call me sometime?”
While she had the courage, she called Michael. Her heart beat faster with each ring of her old number.
As soon as he heard her voice, Michael blurted out, “Pam, I’m glad you called. I’ve been working up the courage to call you. Could you ever forgive me?”
“Forgive you?” she asked.
“I’ve been seeing a shrink a client recommended. My depression began to interfere with work,” he said. “The shrink helped me see that I tend to shut down during any personal crisis. Even though you were wrong to cheat on me, I now understand my part in pushing you in to what’s his name’s arms. I still love you, and I’m ready to work things out with you if you are willing.”
“Do you mean to get back together?” she asked.
“Yes. We could start by spending this weekend together. I’ll drive up to you.”
“Michael, you don’t know how much this means to me. I’m looking forward to it,” she said. “I never stopped loving you either.”
Right before they hung up, Michael said, “Pam, one more thing, technically we’re still married. I couldn’t bring myself to submit the divorce papers.”
Previously published in e-clips.