Pam checked her watch. Three minutes. Okay…starting…now.
She closed the lid to the toilet and sat, staring at the little window in the plastic stick in her hands. It only took a few seconds, though, to realize that if she just sat for three minutes straight and watched for the little blue line to appear, she just might go certifiably insane. She placed the test on the back of the toilet with the rest of the package and turned her back to it resolutely.
She wouldn't look until the three minutes were up.
She couldn't believe she was doing this here in the ladies room of Dunder-Mifflin, of all places, but she hadn't been able to wait. When it had occurred to her this morning that her flu-like symptoms might not just be the actual flu, she had checked her calendar and realized that she was four days late. That wasn't so unusual—she had always had a slightly irregular schedule. But the combination of the lateness and the nausea and the generally-not-feeling-well had nearly sent her into a panic. She had been unable to think of anything else and was totally unable to get any work done.
Finally, she had decided she couldn't stand it anymore. She took an early lunch and ran to the corner drug-store to pick up the test. And now she was here, huddled in the corner stall, waiting under the cold florescent lights.
She checked her watch again. Two minutes twenty to go. If she didn't know better, she would have sworn she saw the second-hand go backwards for one tick.
Pam wasn't sure why she was so anxious. Well, obviously, the possibility of having a baby was a huge thing. But she and Roy had always planned on having children someday. This would just be speeding things up a bit, wouldn't it?
She rubbed her temples, her eyes closed. Her head was aching so badly. Her entire body was aching, actually. Surely that meant it was the flu, right?
Why did she keep hoping it was the flu and not a baby? Didn't she want a baby? Babies were adorable and sweet and cuddly…she loved babies. Of course she wanted a baby.
Less than two minutes now...
What would Roy say?
Unbidden, his face came into her mind, and it was twisted with anger. She heard his voice in her mind, accusing her of messing up her birth-control pills. She hadn't…she was positive. She took her pills like clock-work, every day. But the Pill wasn't always 100 percent effective. Roy knew that.
And why did she jump to the conclusion that he wouldn't be happy? He might not be—he might be overjoyed.
Pam snorted quietly and shook her head at her own ability to deceive herself. Of course Roy wouldn't be happy about this. Whenever Pam had brought up the topic of children, he had always agreed with her that someday they would have a family. But now Pam recalled that his agreement had always been a bit vague, a timeline never really discussed. It had always been "someday." Pam had been content to leave it at that—after all, there was no use pinning him down on his exact ideas of fatherhood when they couldn't even settle on a date for their wedding.
The issue suddenly seemed much more urgent.
She checked her watch again. One and half minutes to go.
There were other things to consider, too. Their financial position wasn't the greatest—they got along okay, but just barely. A baby would change all of that. Pam would have to leave work, at least temporarily, and then there would be day-care, and diapers, and clothes…Roy might even have to get a second job.
And what about the wedding? This might mean canceling the big family wedding Pam had always hoped for. They would need that money for the baby.
Pam hugged her arms around herself and shivered. This was too much to think about. Why was she here alone? She should be at home, anxiously waiting together with Roy for the little line to appear. She should be excited…overjoyed at the idea of being pregnant.
But that was just another fantasy…a dream. Like so much else in her life, reality had turned out to be a far cry from what she had imagined it would be as a little girl.
One minute to go.
Another thought rose up against her will—if she really was pregnant, it would mean that that internship was absolutely, irrevocably beyond reach. Pam was surprised at herself—she had thought that she had already let go of that dream. But now she found now that she had been, once again, deceiving herself. She hadn't totally dismissed the idea, after all. In fact, it had been lingering in the back of her mind ever since that day Jan had first told her about it.
And now that the mere possibility of it was about to be ripped away from her, she realized just how badly she wanted it. Jim had been right—he had known better than she had how important it was. Why hadn't she listened to him? Really listened to him? Things had been so…odd between them ever since they'd had that argument. She knew she had disappointed him badly. And now it was probably too late—too late to make things up with him. Too late to change her mind. Too late for lots of things.
For just a moment, she envisioned herself telling Jim that she was going to have a baby.
She didn't let that thought linger for too long. For some odd reason, she just couldn't face it. She would have to deal with that later.
Pam glanced at her watch…to her surprise, she found that the three-minute mark had come and gone. She took a deep breath. This was it—this was the moment that would decide the rest of her life. If there was a second line, she was bound to one path—the path she had been walking for the past ten years.
If there was no second line, all other paths would still be open to her. The thought was rather frightening, and Pam wasn't sure exactly what she hoped to see.
She stood up and turned. She picked up the test with an unsteady hand. She looked down.
i I'm not pregnant. /i
She began to shake as relief swept over her. Up until that moment, she hadn't let herself acknowledge how scared she was. Now it overwhelmed her…she was still free. Free to decide, free to change her mind, free to change her life.
She sank down, overcome with emotion. The tears came forcefully and refused to stop. She knelt in a praying position in front of the toilet, her knees digging into the cold tile floor, her face buried in her hand as she sobbed.
A few minutes later, she realized someone was knocking softly on the stall door.
"Pam, are you okay?" It was Phyllis.
Pam stood up shakily and wiped her face with the back of her hand. She opened the door.
Phyllis took it all in in one glance—the box and wrappings from the pregnancy test sitting on the back of the toilet, Pam's tear-stained face, the plastic stick still gripped in her hand.
"Oh…oh! Pam, are you…?"
Pam shook her head…and then promptly burst into fresh tears.
Phyllis opened her arms, and Pam went willingly and gratefully into them. Phyllis' sweater was cool and soft against her hot face. Pam recognized the smell of her lotion…it was the same lotion her mother used. Oil-of-Olay. It was a comforting smell.
The older woman patted her back soothingly. "There, there now. Everything's okay. Even if it didn't take this time, you're so young…there'll be plenty of other chances…"
Pam sniffled. "No, it's not that…"
"What is it, then, dear?"
"It's just…I don't know…I'm not feeling so well…"
It was true. Pam suddenly felt extremely dizzy. She pulled away from Phyllis and sat down again. She braced her hands against the sides of the stall and squeezed her eyes shut, willing the room to stop spinning.
She felt something cool pressed against her cheek. It was Phyllis's hand.
"Oh, my dear…you're burning up. We've got to get you out of here…you should be at home in bed…"
Phyllis took the test from Pam's hand and gathered up the rest of the packaging, then went to dump it all in the trash. Then she came back and helped Pam to her feet.
"Phyllis, please don't tell…"
"Don't worry…all anyone needs to know is that you're not feeling well. I'll never mention it, I promise."
Phyllis put her arm around her and guided her to the door. They stepped out into the kitchen, where Jim was having his lunch. He sprang to his feet when he saw them.
"Pam, what's wrong? Are you okay?"
Pam smiled at him goofily. "I'm okay…"
"Not you're not," Phyllis admonished her gently. "She's not," she continued, speaking to Jim. "She's running a fever. We need to get her home."
Pam swayed on her feet, and Jim reached out to steady her.
"Whoops," he said. "Okay…let's go. Phyllis, can you grab her stuff?"
"But your lunch…" Pam protested weakly.
Jim smiled. "It'll keep. Come on."
They made their way out into the main office, Phyllis in the lead with Jim guiding Pam gently along. Her mind reflected foggily that it felt nice to have his arm around her like that. She was only vaguely aware that the others were all watching. It all seemed very distant, somehow.
"What about Michael?" she asked. "I need to tell him…"
"He went out for lunch," Jim reminded her. "Don't worry, we'll let him know. And Ryan can cover the phones while you're out."
"Okay." Pam was perfectly willing to let Jim handle the details.
When they reached the reception desk, Phyllis called down to the warehouse for Roy.
"He'll meet you downstairs," she told Pam, hanging up the phone.
"Okay," Pam said, not really caring. She was very tired…she needed to lie down. She looked up at Jim. "Will you take me?"
"Yeah, of course."
Phyllis handed Jim Pam's coat and purse, and he put his arm around her again and led her to the elevator. They started the ride down in silence, standing side by side.
Pam was trying to think…there was a reason she had asked for this moment alone with him. What was it? Her brain just didn't seem to be working properly…Oh, yes. Quick, before they reached the bottom floor…
"I've changed my mind."
He looked down at her, puzzled.
"Changed it about what?"
"The internship. I'm going to take it."
Even through the fog of her fever, Jim's smile had the power to thrill her to her toes. She smiled back, and suddenly everything was okay between them again.
"Pam, that's fantastic," he said, turning towards her. "I knew…"
But then there was a small ding, and the elevator doors slid open to reveal Roy standing there. After a small moment of hesitation Pam stepped out reluctantly to stand next to her fiance. Jim handed off her coat and purse.
"Here you go," he said. "Feel better, Pam."
"Thanks, man," said Roy, helping Pam into her coat.
"No problem. You take good care of her."
Pam looked up sharply at this, and Jim met her gaze evenly. They exchanged another small smile.
Roy cleared his throat. "Come on, babe."
They turned to go, and Pam stole one last glance over her shoulder. Jim was still standing there, watching. Pam knew he was willing her not to grow weak again…to stay steady in her resolve and to not let go of her dream again, no matter what Roy might have to say.
Pam could have told him not to worry. Those three crucial minutes today had changed everything. She wasn't going to let her dream of being an artist slip away—not now that she had a second chance. And if she could hold on to this, maybe that meant that certain other dreams could also come true…someday.