A half drunken flush spills across her cheeks like paint onto a perfect canvas. And she smiles a slow, soft smile that makes my fingertips twitch as her skin creases and folds and floods into her eyes. She's leaning towards me, talking softly into my ear about something that doesn't matter. Something that is completely irrelevant because she's close and that's all my mind can focus on. Proximity. I try to listen to the words, but am consumed entirely by the fragrance of liquor and perfume that seems to drift off of her. Like sand or water or something else that I am incapable of holding in my hands. And I think my senses might overload. I think my impulses might become victorious. I haven't been drinking, but I suddenly feel lightheaded and my limbs are weightless and I'm thinking about touching her, thinking that this is more than I can take without acting on my urges. Then she laughs. And I'm dying as her hand falls against my forearm, as her fingertips brush against my skin. So I bite down on the inside of my cheek as hard as I can and smile back at her.
This is what my life has become: The taste of blood at office parties. Sometimes it's my tongue or my cheek or my bottom lip. Sometimes I just clench my teeth as hard as I can while still keeping my countenance light, friendly.
Really, what I'm feeling is dread. No. Panic.
I spend some days watching the clock tick by every second. In my head, there's a countdown to June 10th. There are mornings when I wake up and swear that I can't breathe anymore. I'm suffocating as I watch time run out on me.
As of this moment, as she's leaning and laughing, there are two months, two weeks and three days left. I could calculate the hours and minutes and seconds, but I don't. I want to save a little bit of my sanity. And I'm thinking that in three hours there will be only two months, two weeks, and two days left. My throat tightens and I try to direct my attention towards something else. I watch intently at the way her fingers push back the piece of hair that is always in her eyes. The way she ducks her head just a little as she does it. The way she looks up at me afterwards. Two months, two weeks, two days, and three hours. I bite down harder.
"Jim?" She's sobered a bit and I release my cheek just a little. "Do you- Uh, never mind."
She looks down at her shoes, that deviant piece of hair falling once again. I touch her elbow with two of my fingers, just lightly, but it feels like more. It feels like forever, eternity, happiness. I retract them quickly. I laugh lightly to mask all of this tension inside me. "What?"
She looks back up and her eyes are glassy. "Um, do you think…I don't even know why I'm asking you this." She presses her lips together in a firm line of frustration. "Do you think that Roy's right? For me, I mean…Do you…"
Two months, two weeks, two days, three hours, and 56 minutes.
"Pam, I don't know…I can't really…answer that for you." I choke this out, because I want to say the exact opposite. I want to tell her that he's completely wrong for her. That she's sure to be miserable if she goes through with this. That he can't…Not like…But it doesn't come out.
"No, Jim. I want you to be honest. Just…What do you think? You know me better than anyone. And I'm…I'm just not sure about…anything anymore." Some of her words are colliding with each other because of her slurring tongue and she's swaying slightly, in and out. Towards me, away from me.
And I think, this is it. This is my moment. I am going to say it. Everything. All of it. It won't get lodged in my throat this time. So I reach my fingertips out again, let them graze against the worn cotton of her shirt. She looks at me with that wide eyed stare like she's terrified of the truth that will come out of my mouth.
My lips part, forming the shape of my next word. I close them though and look at her seriously; just to make sure she really wants to hear the truth. She doesn't move. She keeps looking at me. And I think, now. Now. Do it now.
"No." I breathe in. "I don't think he's right for you. I mean, if you want to be here forever, then, sure, he's right for you. But if you want more…" I shrug. As if this is casual. As if my palms aren't soaked with sweat. As if I can't hear my own heart, pounding hard in my ears. "Pam, you…I…"
She isn't reacting. Her face hasn't changed. She leans in towards me again, only this time it isn't due to a drunken lack of balance. I don't have any time to react. She kisses me and pulls away quickly, her eyes still wide.
She starts to walk away. Two months, two weeks, two days, three hours, and 45 minutes.
I grab her hand, pulling her back towards me. "Pam…"
She shakes herself from my grasp. "Jim, I can't…" She's crying, I realize as she turns away from me again, bringing her hand to her face. She walks briskly out of the door before I can say anything else. I stand there for a second, trying to put myself together.
I give up and I'm following her out into the parking lot. She's standing just outside of the door with her arms wrapped around her, guarding her from the cool wind of late March. I approach her quietly with my hands in pockets.
Her head tilts up, a tear sliding into the crease of her eye. She's looking at the stars. I've learned from my years at Dunder Mifflin that this calms her. That she likes to count them until she loses track. I look up and try to count them myself; really I'm biding time and trying to think of something to say.
She turns her head towards me, sniffling and pushing her windblown hair out of her face. "I'm stupid. I'm so stupid."
"You're not stupid." I'm still looking at the stars, because I'm afraid to face her.
"I am. I'm stupid. I've wasted so much time…And you're right. Roy isn't…I mean, Roy just represents stability, you know? We've been together for so long that I just assumed he was…it. And I'm afraid. I know I'm not happy. I know I don't want this life forever. But, I can't even imagine anything else…"
I finally turn towards her and she's shivering, rubbing her arms for warmth. "Uh, I'd offer you my coat, but…I'm not wearing one." I smile softly at her. She doesn't smile back. "Pam, look. I…" I turn to her completely. "All I want is for you to be happy. That's all."
She begins to nod slowly and I can see some sort of realization forming in her eyes. And then she's reaching out, taking my hands in her own. I smile as our fingers tangle together and I think that this is how the future looks. She looks up at me with serious eyes.
This time when she kisses me, I have time to close my eyes and lean into her. I have time to move my fingers to the small of her back and pull her closer. She pulls back, but holds onto me tighter.
The countdown in my head stops ticking. Like a defused bomb.
A/N: My first official piece of Office fic. So let me know what you think.