Maybe she had finally agreed to go out with Toby because of Karen. And by maybe, of course, she meant absolutely. The thing was, compared to Karen, Pam was kind of plain. She had pale skin and lackluster hair and no ring on her finger telling her that she meant something to somebody. She was just the receptionist at Dunder-Mifflin who went home to an empty, under furnished apartment every night to watch TV and doodle in her sketch book. What was interesting about that?

She'd been interesting once though. She could be again, she thought.

Toby drove a Hybrid, which Pam though was completely out of character for him but loved it just the same. The car was so quiet when he turned it on that she was startled when they started to move. He'd picked her up at her apartment, waiting in the car with the hazard lights on in the fire lane because he couldn't find parking. The passenger side door was locked and she was holding up the handle while he tried to unlock it so there were a few moments of awkwardness before she finally slid into the car and smiled at him.

"Hi," he said, pulling away. "You look nice."

"Thanks," she said.

"I'm glad you decided to come out with me." He sounded excited, like a kid who gets a good grade without studying. Half surprised, half smug. It didn't bother her, she kind of liked being rewarding.

"Me too," she said. She didn't know where they were going because she didn't ask. His radio was turned off, which she found a little disturbing because it forced the small talk all the more. "How is your daughter?"

"Beautiful," he said. "She's my best friend."

It occurred to Pam that she'd never dated anyone with a child before. Roy's brother had a son with an ex-girlfriend, but Pam never got to see the boy so her interaction with kids was still limited to the occasional take your daughter to work day.

"So where are we going?" asked Pam, sitting on her hands and looking at how the dashboard glowed in the dark. It wasn't raining yet, but it would soon and Scranton looked best in the rain.

"To dinner, and then, the world is ours." he said

"I don't know about freedom," she said, shaking her head. "Are we ready?"

"I think we are." he said, adjusting his mirror slightly. "I feel ready."

oooo

Toby paid for dinner, and everything. He ordered the chicken but encouraged her to order steak. She didn't, but it was nice that he wanted her to get the most expensive thing on the menu. The restaurant was near the university and so there were a lot of awkward first dates happening, but it seemed like Toby was the oldest there. After the meal, he asked her what she wanted to do next.

"What about bowling?" she asked. As soon as she said it, though, she kind of wished she could take it back. "Was that stupid? I feel like it was."

"No, that sounds like…" he cocked his head a little. "I was going to say fun, but I think I mean entertaining."

"We really don't have to." she said, standing. He helped her put on her coat and she felt the brush of his fingers against her hair.

"I want to, Pam." he said, and she believed him.

Bowling was a Jim thing. She knew this and he didn't and she spent the drive to the bowling alley sweating and having to pee even though there was a one in a million chance he'd even be there on a Friday night. In the parking lot, because she felt a little guilty, she put her hand on Toby's and kissed his cheek, leaning over the center divide awkwardly.

Inside the bowling alley there were more teenagers and no Jim and in two games, neither Pam nor Toby broke a hundred. She had two beers and on the street with the hazards of his car on once again, she laughed and kissed him on the mouth and his hands hovered over her waist like he was afraid of scaring her away.

"Go out with me again?" he asked and she said yes a lot of times in a row.

oooo

At work on Monday, there was a yellow daisy on her desk. It was fake, one of those silk flowers from a craft store because no real flowers were growing in Scranton in winter but she smelled it anyway for Toby's benefit – he was staring over his cubicle watching her. She couldn't see his mouth, but his eyes were smiling. She put it in her coffee cup filled with water and she saw Jim watching her but she didn't care, she didn't.

The was the same day Michael set a roll of toilet paper on fire with the candle that smelled like apple pie and Toby rushed in to the men's room with an extinguisher and put it out. They still had to go stand outside in the parking lot so the fire department could reset the system. It was cold, very, and after ten minutes it began to snow so Toby unlocked his car and they got into the back seat with the heater on and she would lean forward every few minutes to play with the radio and Toby showed her the pictures in his wallet of his daughter and his dog.

"My dog's name is Arlo." he said. "Like the singer."

"Arlo," Pam said, and when he put his cold hand on her knee, she kissed him even thought she knew, she i knew /i that everyone was watching. When the big red truck pulled away from the parking lot, they got out into the frigid cold and ran back into the warm, mildly smoky office. Jim wasn't at his desk and she had thirteen voicemails and Karen, the new pretty girl kept wiping at her nose with a Kleenex and complaining loudly about the cold which meant she had been crying. Pam tucked her daisy behind her ear and felt a drop of water from the stem roll down her neck into the collar of her shirt.

oooo

There had been a time, a few years ago, when the power had gone out for a good part of the morning. They could get almost nothing done with no power but Michael wouldn't let them go. Kelly and Pam had taken a candle (it was pumpkin spice, that year) and sat in the supply closet with the door cracked. Kelly had wanted to know about her engagement with Roy and so Pam had told her. There was something about the dim, flickering light and Kelly's open, eager face that made Pam way more open than she would have normally been. It had turned into their engagement to their first time, six days after prom. Roy had been fifteen pounds lighter then, and all muscles and Pam's parents had been gone for the weekend and when Roy had taken off his shirt, Pam had forgotten how to say no.

"He was so gentle," Pam had whispered to Kelly who was for i once /i completely silent. "He took all of my clothes off one piece at a time and slid a pillow under my hips and when he, when we… he was all sweaty and nervous and all he could do was say my name. Pam, Pam, Pam."

"Wow," Kelly said, "So it was good?"

"It was amazing and hot and he's still… really good." They'd giggled and a few minutes later, when Pam pushed open the door, Jim was sitting right outside of it, looking panicked and frozen in his spot. They hadn't talked for a few days after that.

Now Jim was sitting back down at his desk, his new desk away from Dwight and away from her and Karen turned her chair away from him. Jim looked at her and when he saw the flower in her hair, he smiled a little. She left it there.

oooo

After work, she and Toby went to Poor Richard's and sat at the back table. Soon Ryan and Kelly joined them, and then Meredith and then they drug another table over so Phyllis and Bob Vance could join them. When Jim and Karen walked in, Kelly waved them over and pointed to the two empty chairs. Toby's arm was draped over Pam's shoulder casually and she felt him tense a little but he didn't move his arm away and Jim had started to walk over but Karen said something over the loud music that looked like, "No," and so they didn't join their co-workers after all.

"I think she's snobby." Phyllis said, and Meredith laughed because it wasn't like Phyllis, really.

"Me too," Pam said, loudly. "I think so too." She was on her fourth beer, and Toby smiled at her in that way that made his eyes crinkle.

"I'm going to take you home," he said. "Are you ready?"

"Yeah," Pam said. "Take me home, Toby."

The group at the table catcalled a little, which only made Pam laugh and blush and when Toby asked if he could take her to his house instead of her apartment, she said yes. Yes, yes, yes, again and again while Toby laughed a little. She rolled down her window and let all the heat out and the freezing air in and she yelled out the window.

"Do you hear that, Scranton? Toby Flenderson is taking me home!" she yelled.

"Pam," he said, but didn't make any move to stop her. She'd never been to his house, but when he unlocked the door she pushed him against the wall and opened her mouth against his and she'd not slept with anyone except for Roy for ten years, and it had been a long time.

"I'm ready," she said. "I'm ready."

"Me too," he said. "We're ready."

oooo

In the morning, she got up to use the bathroom while he slept. She gave herself a tour of the house in her underwear and saw on his dining room table a row of silk flowers. There was a rose, a lily, an orange one she didn't know the name of. At least seven different kinds of flowers, bright in the greyest season.

She went back to bed with the orange flower tucked in her hair.