Just A Friend (Small Town Stories #3)(2)

By: Merri Maywether

“It’s three hours,” the man replied and pressed a square on his cell phone.

“Who is Gilligan?”

“The guy from Gilligan’s Island. This group took an ocean tour and ended up stranded on a tropical island for years.”

The story was new to Pam. She got lost in the man’s ocean blue eyes and wished she was stranded with the man who made her heart race every time he spoke.

“I ordered a flight, so you can sample all the flavors,” Nancy’s voice interrupted the conversation. Something in her tone chilled the warm feeling in Pam’s chest.

“I’m sorry what did you say?” Pam directed her attention back to her friend. With the shift of attention, the sound, and colors of the room around her returned. For the couple of minutes, she and the man chatted, the rest of the world disappeared. Oddly, Pam felt at ease with the sensation.

“Since you didn’t know what you wanted, I got you a little of everything,” Nancy replied. She stopped talking and wrinkled her brow in concern. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah, sure. Why do you ask?”

“You seem a little out of it.” Nancy shifted her glance, and recognition of something crossed her face. “Oh”

Pam never had the chance to ask her what “oh” meant. The man, who with each ticking of the second hands on the clock was transforming into her future husband, tapped her on the shoulder. “Okay, the goddess of geography, what is the area of Montana?”

She didn’t have to think hard. The numbers in the other choices were too large or too small. “147,040 miles,” she answered.

His blue eyes sparkled and took on the shine of sapphire as he tapped the answer. “No wonder it’s been so hard for me to find a wife. The state’s too big!”

Pam knew then and there she was in love with a perfect stranger, and there was nothing anybody could do about it.

The Ladies Room

The game was too fun not to play. From one question to the next the participant’s rankings changed. Apparently, the timing of the response mattered as well.

During one of the pauses between the questions, the handsome hunk who remained by her side during the game introduced himself. “My name is Jorgen Backman. I live on a farm outside of Ashbrook. What’s your name?”

“A farmer?” Pam matched his body structure with his proclaimed profession. He had to have thrown a lot of hay bales to get a chest that broad.

“Yes. And you are?”

“I am?” Maybe it was something in his voice, or the rich blue in his eyes that threw her off. Intrigued to figure out what it was, Pam had forgotten the question.

“This is the part where you tell me your name. Or you make up one, so I can’t find you on social media.” He grinned.

“Pam. My name is Pam Wagner. I’m a nurse at the senior living center.”

“So that’s where they hide all the pretty women.” He nodded his approval, and they were on to the next question.

The chatting went back and forth between the people at the table who Pam learned also lived in or around Ashbrook. William, the older gentleman who she guessed was Jorgen’s father, joked cordially with Jorgen and another man named Sam. Like Jorgen, Sam’s eyes caught Pam’s attention, but his salty personality made it difficult for her to admire him or them.

From their conversation, she learned the three men worked together but lived on separate farms. And, contrary to her initial impression, William was not Jorgen’s actual father. But, something deeper than they cared to reveal forged the paternal like bond between them. When they weren’t playing the game, all three men bantered back and forth about stories they had lived together in the past.

Unfamiliar with the people, Pam felt more at ease experiencing the stories as an observer. When they included Nancy, she presented her way of avoiding situations. “I have to go to the bathroom.” She stood to leave and waited for Pam to join her. Pam checked on her glass to find that both of their glasses were empty. It wasn’t until she rose to her feet that Pam’s bladder forced her to admit that she too shared the need to use the ladies’ room.

She politely excused herself, wrapped her purse around her shoulder, and motioned to speak.