This was originally meant to be a short, fluffy piece, but it somehow
took on a life of its own and turned into this: A seven page piece
that took me a month to finish. Anyway, I feel like Pam and Jim
aren't completely in character for parts of this. I don't know.
Let me know what you think.
New York City is gray like Scranton. It is suffocating like Scranton. It is just as finite and just as consuming. But in a completely new way. A refreshing way. He wakes up, smiles, and doesn't mind the rain or the damp air or his 9 to 5. He still sits behind a desk. He still answers phones and talks about paper and rolls his shirt sleeves up to the middle of his forearms. He still eats his ham and cheese sandwich. But it's different now.
Anyway, it's Saturday and he doesn't have to think about any of this. And right now he's asleep on the living room sofa at two in the afternoon. The apartment is lit by the bright white of the clouds hanging outside of the wall of windows that is opposite his slumbering body. The rain pitter patters softly against the glass and sometimes he likes to keep his breathing even with each drop.
She's secured herself in the space between him and the back of the sofa. She's awake, but dozing off to the feeling of his swelling chest. She presses her face into the fabric of his gray Scranton t-shirt. His Saturday shirt. He smells like something warm and comforting, something that presses her heart against her ribcage when she breathes in. The sort of smell that she'll never be able to find anywhere else. The sort of smell that he'll always carry with him.
She kisses him almost imperceptibly on the neck and watches his face for a reaction. His mouth slowly turns upward into a smile, but his eyes remain closed. She shoves him lightly, causing him to almost fall off of the couch. He grabs the arm with one hand and her waist with the other, both saving himself and taking her with him. He's laughing loudly and she just grins down at him when he finally hits the floor. She leans over to peer at him from above, a few of her curls dangling close to his eyes.
He feigns irritation. "Why would you do that?"
Her smile erupts into a fit of laughter. When she sobers, she says, "I'm bored."
"It's Saturday afternoon and it's raining. You're supposed to be bored and so you're supposed to sleep. That's what rainy afternoons were made for."
He grabs her wrists and pulls until she's lying on top of him on the floor. He pushes back the hair that's falling into her face and kisses her, holding it for a second because it still seems unreal to him sometimes. He is constantly reminding himself that this is reality, finally.
June 7th and he's given up. He throws another shirt into his suitcase before closing it and pulling the zipper all the way around. The sound of it rings with so much finality that he has to sit down for a second. The truth is he doesn't want to go. The truth is that he's already homesick. But then he tries to make a list of things keeping him here and can only come up with one. One stupid reason for him to stay here. And it's the same reason he's leaving. He closes his eyes. He feels defeated, is defeated, has stopped pretending things will work out.
The phone rings and startles him.
"Are you still going to Australia?"
He glances down at the suitcase. "Yeah, I'm still going to Australia."
And then there's only silence, something they've grown accustomed too. The loudest sort of silence. And then he asks, "Are you still marrying Roy?" He tries to sound light, like he's joking around, not hoping for her to say no.
He waits for her answer, but instead hears only the wet sound of her lips parting and closing again. Until she says, "No. I…I'm not marrying him."
"Oh." He's not elated like he assumed he would be at this moment. He's confused, stunned, silent.
"I just….You were right. I needed to take a chance on something. And I…" Her voice falters.
"Pam, look, you don't have to explain."
"Right. Because you already know. You've known from the start." She breathes in deeply. "Is it- Can I come over?"
"Yeah. Of course."
June 8th and he wakes up in his living room with a numb arm and her head resting on his shoulder. It's nine o'clock and he's missed his flight. But Australia had been forgotten somewhere around midnight last night.
Mostly, it was talk about the future. About chances and dreams. About hope and the existence of fate. She asked him where he wanted to be before he started at Dunder Mifflin and he couldn't answer her. He couldn't remember what he had wanted then, only what he wants now. So he simply said, "I want…to be content." She had smiled at him, nodding, saying, "Yeah, I get that."
She wakes up and looks at him. He watches as she remembers where she is and why she's here, relieved when she smiles at him and says, "Morning," in a voice thick with sleep.
He stands up, removing himself from her. "Coffee?"
She smiles broadly. "Yes, please."
She leans against the counter as he turns on the coffee maker. When he turns back around to face her, he asks the question. The one they've been avoiding. "So, what about Roy?"
"What about him?"
"I mean, he still works with us. You're going to see him everyday…" He shakes his head. "How are you going to handle that?"
An electronic beep lets him know the coffee is ready. He pours some into a mug and hands it to her. He begins searching the refrigerator for cream, hoping he has some that hasn't passed its expiration date.
He finds a half full carton and removes his head from the refrigerator to look at her. "What do you mean?"
She shrugs. "I mean I'm not going to handle it…I'm thinking of moving…away."
He puts the container of cream down on the counter. "Oh."
She's quick to say, "But I'm scared. I don't know if I can do it…alone." Her eyes dart up to his face at this last word and she bites her lip.
"Oh, uh, well, yeah, I can understand that fear…" He clears his throat and busies himself adding cream and sugar to his coffee. "Where were you thinking of going?"
She leans against the kitchen counter close to him and he has trouble concentrating on the excessive stirring he's been doing because here she is barefoot in his kitchen at 9:30 in the morning, her clothes a little disheveled, her hair a mess and she's close.
"Um. New York? I was thinking about that internship and I thought Jan could help me maybe get a job with corporate while I'm doing that. I don't know."
He stops pretending to concentrate on the coffee and turns to face her, smiling wider than he's smiled in a while. "That's fantastic, Pam. You should do it."
"Yeah, I think it'll be…good." She starts to tug at her necklace, a nervous habit he's learned to recognize. "Do you- I mean…No, it's stupid. Forget it."
"I was going to ask if you'd come with me, but that's crazy. I have no right to ask you to do something like that. It's just…You know, you're my best friend…" She looks down at the floor.
Her head snaps up and her eyes are incredulous. "What?"
"New York. I'll go. You think I'd pass up an opportunity to get out of Scranton? No way." He gives her his reassuring smile, the one that makes everything seem like it's easy.
On June 10th, she's been sleeping on his pull out sofa for the past two nights. And the living room is slowly filling with boxes of her things. And when he winds his way around them to get through the room, he smiles.
But this morning he finds her in the hallway bathroom, wearing her wedding dress. Sees the white through the slight crack she left in the door. He stops for a moment, watching her look at her reflection as she runs her hands over the fabric of the dress.
His knuckles rap against the door slightly, causing it to swing open. She jumps at the sound and his presence and then blushes when she realizes she's been caught. He's surprised because she doesn't look sad. He expected tears and a sad, apologetic smile. Instead, she looks happy almost.
"You're beautiful." He isn't sure how it manages to slip out of his mouth. He isn't sure where his trusty censor went that stopped him from saying things like that.
She looks in the mirror again, smiles, says, "I'm happy."
He leans against the doorjamb. "Yeah?"
"I think… if I married Roy, I wouldn't be happy." She looks down at her finger, the indentation from her engagement ring still there. She looks at him then, her face serious. "I mean, I loved him. I wasn't with him for ten years without loving him. He's just…It's like when you go to a restaurant for the first time and you order this one thing and it's good and you like it, so the next time you go to that restaurant you order it again and you just keep ordering the same thing when there could be something a lot better, but you're too afraid to try anything else." She smiles a little, looking back down at her finger. "That didn't make any sense, did it?"
"Amazingly enough, it made perfect sense." He pushes himself off of the doorjamb and smiles at her, taking in her appearance fully for the first time. The gown is a rich, creamy off white color. It's strapless and his eyes take their time with her protruding collar bones and the slope of her shoulders. The long skirt pools a bit awkwardly around her feet in the cramped space of the bathroom. He wants to tell her that she's beautiful again, but stops himself this time.
She notices the way he's watching her and squirms a bit, blushing. "I know. I'm being totally weird right now, standing here in my wedding dress, aren't I?"
"It's understandable. Might as well wear the dress you paid for."
Now she smiles sadly into the mirror. "Yeah, might as well."
He looks at her face in the mirror, his eyebrows pulling themselves together in thought. "So, uh, what happened with Roy exactly?"
She doesn't say anything initially. And then, "Just…I don't know…"
He takes a few steps into the bathroom. "Come on, Pam..."
He watches her face fall, her bottom lip start to tremble. "Compromises turned out to actually be sacrifices. Only I was the one doing all the sacrificing and he just…It had been a long time coming." She sniffs, pulling toilet paper from the roll and dabbing at her eyes.
He thinks he should touch her shoulder, comfort her somehow. But the skin there is bare and he isn't sure that's the best idea. He leans against the wall and looks down at her. "It's for the best, Pam. You know that. Roy might've been dependable and something to fall back on, but is that what you want to base your life on? And, anyway, you should be with someone who supports you. He didn't do that."
She shakes her head. "You're right. It hurts though. Ten years just gone like that."
He shifts on his feet and then smiles, "Hey, will Jim Halpert's famous waffles make you feel any better?"
She wipes her nose with more toilet paper and then smiles, "With strawberries and ice cream?"
"Of course," he says as he starts to leave the bathroom. "I'll let you change while I get the waffle iron going."
June 11th means moving on. She's on the phone with Jan all afternoon, working out positions and details and internships. She's sitting cross legged on the foot of his bed and he stops on his way down the hall to check in on her from the doorway. She covers the receiver and mouths to him, "Almost done, "and rolls her eyes. He smiles and continues down the hall.
He's gotten a job with the corporate offices. A higher position with better pay. Granted, he still has to work for Dunder Mifflin. Granted he still has to spend his life talking about paper, but it's going to be better this time.
Later, she approaches him in the kitchen as he's pouring her a glass of wine. She takes the glass from him graciously, leaning against the counter and looking over his face as a smile forms on her own. She raises her glass and he does the same with the beer in his hands. "To taking chances," she says quietly.
He kisses her that night once he's a little dizzy from the alcohol and her presence. She toasted to taking chances and so he takes his, unsure if enough time has passed to do it or not. Not caring either way, really. And it's like he expected. Like one would expect a kiss that's been building for three years in the corners of his mind. It overwhelms him and he thinks he might stop breathing. She tastes like red wine and lip gloss and licorice because she's been eating the leftover black jellybeans in the bowl on his coffee table. He doesn't mind the taste now that it's hers.
He feels her start to shake beneath his hands and he grasps her tighter, trying to steady her. It works and soon she is solid against him, pressing and it's almost more than he can take. Almost.
June 12th wakes him up with sun and sheets and limbs. He smiles and with her still asleep, he lets it grow painfully wide. He looks at her hair fanned out on the white of his pillow. His heart becomes impossibly full in that moment, because things are never supposed to be this perfect. And it becomes a jar without a lid, with everything trying to force its way out of the top, but the glass shatters anyway and it hurts for a second. It hurts just until she opens her eyes and they meet his and they're smiling.
He kisses her, whispers some early morning greeting to her, and touches her face gently. He wonders if Roy ever woke her up this way and how long it had been since he'd done it.
She's staring at him. Her green eyes not moving from his face.
He says, "I'm sorry if this was too soon…Pam, I don't want to-"
She stops him, kissing the corner of his mouth lightly. She pulls away slowly and says, "It was right. It's always been right with you." And then she looks down at the sheets pooled between them and says, "Sorry for not realizing that…before."
"It's fine," he says. "It was worth it." He smiles at her, reaching his hand out for her bare hip beneath the sheets and pulling her closer to him. She laughs and he's almost positive that's all he'll ever need.
June 20th is spent hunting for apartments. While she's in the shower, his eyes fall on one of her boxes that sits by the foot of his bed. A piece of paper sits on top of everything, a scrap from a steno pad. On it is a sketch of a house covered with ivy and there are flowers blooming on a terrace. He bites his lip and lets his fingers run along the edges of the paper. He's folding the piece of paper to put in his pocket when he notices her tiny, precise handwriting in the corner. It simply says, "dreams."
He isn't sure how he feels that morning as he watches her get dressed. It's only been a little over a week since….And now they're moving in together, moving to a new city together. He won't admit this to her, but he's afraid. She shakes a little that morning as she tries to clasp her necklace. Eventually she gives up and asks him to do it. He steadies his hands just long enough to get it done. He has to appear brave today.
The scrap of paper is still in the back pocket of his jeans. He feels better somehow with it there.
They take the train to the city and the whole way there, he's holding her hand. She won't let go and he doesn't mind. At some point, he takes the scrap out of his pocket and hands it to her. She unfolds it slowly and when she sees the drawing she looks at him, beaming. He's added a word to the corner of it: "Someday."
She kisses him firmly on the mouth and it makes him lightheaded. As she pulls away, he can only focus on the blurring on scenery in the window behind her. The speed at which they're being hurled through New Jersey. The way the sun catches on wisps of her hair. And then the way her mouth seems to move in slow motion as she says, "I love you."
But then everything speeds up and he's grabbing her face and kissing her fiercely, no longer caring that they're in public. She resists at first, but his insistence wins her over and she's kissing him back. And when he lets her go, she's laughing. She says, "So that's what I've been missing these past three years…"
And then they're standing in the middle of this studio apartment that consists of one big room with a bed and a tiny kitchen and half of a living room with a bathroom shoved in one of the corners. She's all but jumping up and down and he notices the way she clenches her fist to contain herself. The landlord is rambling about plumbing or something that doesn't interest either of them as they are mostly consumed with the way the city looks from the window. Really he's caught up in the idea of this, them, together in this apartment.
He grabs one of her fisted hands half with the need to steady himself and half with the need to feel her skin against his for a moment. He pulls her a little closer to him so her back rests against his chest slightly. He leans down and whispers, grinning against her ear, "You're adorable." And kisses her where her cheek meets her ear before announcing to the landlord, "Yeah, we'll take it."
June 30th and he wakes up next to her in their new apartment. She's obviously been awake for a while as she's propped up on her elbow, watching him with her soft green eyes. He smiles sleepily and says, "What are you doing up at four in the morning?" He stretches his arms out as an invitation to her and she puts her head on his chest, a hand resting on his bare stomach.
"I was thinking."
Her finger runs along his skin and dips into his belly button. "About what?"
"Good thoughts?" His lips move against her hair as he talks.
She hesitates here, her finger stops moving against his skin. Then she says, "Nothing thoughts. Just…thoughts."
"Okay. Give me an example 'cause…I'm lost."
"This is good, right? I mean, this is what was supposed to happen. I feel…I broke up with Roy and went right to you. I don't know…Just…" She moves her forehead so it's resting on his neck, feeling his pulse. It's slow and steady and exactly what she needs right now. "I'm scared, Jim."
He pulls her even close to him and kisses the top of her head. And staring at the ceiling with her body fitting perfectly against his, he says, "Yeah…me too."
He feels her eyelashes against his skin as she blinks. "We start our new jobs on Monday."
He nods. "Well, not really new. Still good ol' Dunder Mifflin."
"Yeah, but we won't be working in the same place. Who will keep me sane?"
"Who will keep you sane? The question is who will keep me sane?" He pauses and then gasps dramatically. "Oh, God. What if there's a Dwight there too?"
"Don't worry. You'll be his superior, if there is a Dwight."
She looks up at him, grinning with the moon lighting up her face. He kisses her softly, whispering against her cheek that he loves her, always, always.
Now his back is pressed against the hardwood floor in late August with her on top of him. His hands are still on either side of her face and she's smiling down at him.
She moves off of him and lies on the floor next to him, their shoulders touching each other. She lets out a slow breath and says to the ceiling, "I'm still bored." She giggles and turns to him as he groans and wraps his arms around her.
He kisses her jaw and then his teeth find her earlobe, eliciting a strange noise from her that causes him to laugh against her throat. His lips brush against her neck as he says, "I think I know what can cure your boredom."
"Yeah." He kisses her neck, her collar bone, and then her mouth. Her skin still feels new to him and he's still finding places that she likes to be touched: the small of her back, just under her left shoulder blade, her wrists, behind her knees.
And it's strange after three years of nothing more than friendship, to be making love to her on their living room floor on a rainy Saturday afternoon. It's strange to attain this sort of perfection, to touch it and taste it and know it completely. So he closes his eyes and lets it swallow him completely.
Afterwards, she takes a shower and as she's toweling her hair dry, he sits on the bed and watches her. She plops down next to him, still only in a towel with her wet hair dripping down her shoulders. She asks him, "Remember that night after I'd left Roy and we were talking about dreams and what we wanted?"
"Yeah, I think I remember that night…" He's memorized it. Every word, every gesture, every look.
"Well, did you ever figure out what it was that you wanted?" She bites her lip. "Just you said before that you couldn't remember what you wanted…"
His lips turn up in a half smile, that lopsided one that slowly turns into a full blown smile, and he gives a heavy sigh and says, "This is what I wanted."