Jim nervously rattled his keys in his coat pocket as he waited for assistance at the counter of Boccardo Jewelers. In his other hand he held a small bag that contained the diamond engagement ring he had bought in that very store six months earlier, still tucked away in its black velvet box instead of on the finger of the woman he loved. After four disastrous attempts at proposing, Jim was starting to believe the ring was jinxed, and not in a way that could be easily fixed by buying a Coke.
Maybe if he just returned it and told them to just let him keep the credit on his account, he could find a way to propose without a ring, and then let Pam come pick one out. That seemed like a reasonable plan, and it was one he revisited over and over as he waited, but it was lunch time and it seemed all but one staff member had gone on break. As the minutes continued to tick by, Jim walked slowly around all the display cases, trying to decide what ring Pam might ultimately choose. He looked through every case at least twice before a tall, older man behind the counter finally approached him.
"I'm sorry for your wait, Sir. What can I do for you?"
Jim took the velvet box out of the bag and held it in his hand without saying a word. He gently opened up the box and stared down at the ring that was sparkling under the jeweler's lights just as brightly as it had on the day he first saw it. He knew the man was waiting for him to speak, but he was having a hard time coming up with the right words. He finally put the ring box on the counter and slid it over to him.
"I was wondering if I could get this cleaned and checked over. I'm afraid I've been holding on to it for over half a year and I want to make sure it's still in good condition."
The sales associate raised his eyebrow curiously at him, but picked up the box. "Of course we can, Sir. If you'll just give me a minute I can have this done right now for you."
Jim sighed and wandered over to lean against the wall. After seeing all the rings on offer and comparing them to the one he'd chosen months ago, he knew there was no going back. The ring he'd been living with since July was the only ring he wanted to give Pam. He would just have to figure out a way to beat what was starting to feel like a curse on successfully proposing.
Ten minutes later the gentleman reappeared and approached him, the ring box already tucked into a new bag. "It's still perfect," he said as he handed it back to Jim. "I took it upon myself to replace the velvet box, as it was looking a little worn around one of the edges."
"Thank you," Jim replied, aware he was blushing slightly. He couldn't help it, but he felt the need to explain why he still had the ring, though he was certain the man wouldn't care. "I've actually been trying to propose for a while now, but things don't seem to be working out."
Again, the eyebrow raised. "Does she keep turning you down?"
"No," Jim laughed self-consciously. "There always seems to be something that prevents me from even getting to the asking part."
"Are you sure you really want to marry her?"
Jim felt unexplainably miffed at the question. "Yes, of course I do," he replied, slightly more snappish than he otherwise might have been.
"Then quit trying so hard." The older man gave Jim a surprising wink. "Have a good day."
Jim frowned the whole ride back to the office. There was something a little too knowing in the old guy's attitude, something a little too smug that just rubbed Jim the wrong way. How did the guy know anything about his situation? If anything he needed to try harder. As he parked his car in his usual space, he grabbed the jewelry bag and stuck it into the pocket of his blue wool coat. He'd have to transfer it to his messenger bag before he left for work that evening, because sometimes Pam was the first to the coat rack at night and he didn't want her accidentally finding the box in his pocket.
The afternoon didn't get much better for Jim, as there was a mountain of paperwork to guide Michael through from their inventory counts of the previous night. As usual, harnessing Michael to sit still long enough to sign off on the appropriate paperwork was like herding cats, and as five o'clock approached Jim made the decision to send Michael home and finish up all the reports himself. Pam had enough practice writing Michael's signature that forgery seemed to be the lesser of two evils when faced with many more hours of a distracted Michael Scott.
It was nearing seven o'clock as Pam and Jim were putting the final touches on the inventory reports. They were seated across from each other at the conference table, and as they each double checked numbers and signatures Jim would occasionally look up to find Pam looking at him.
"What's the matter?" he finally asked.
"Are you mad at me?"
Jim stopped working. "No, of course not. Why would I be mad at you?"
"I don't know, that's why I'm asking." she said softly. "You just seem - I don't know - like something's bothering you. You've been this way for a little while now so I thought I should ask."
He knew there would be times like this when her ability to read him so well would not always be an asset. He ran his hand through his hair. "No, I've nothing to complain about in regards to you," he gave her a small smile. "I guess I've just been tired, and all this grey weather hasn't been helping. I'm sorry if I've inadvertently been taking it out on you."
She shook her head. "You haven't. Not yet anyway," she grinned. "I guess maybe you should start getting to bed a little earlier then, huh?"
Jim felt his mood lifting with her teasing. "I think it's all the going to bed that's part of the reason I'm so tired," he replied, turning his attention back to signing documents.
"Wow," Pam laughed. "Well, there's no reason you can't go home and sleep in your own bed and I'll go home to mine if that's how you feel about it."
"That's not going to help either."
"And why's that?"
"Because I would just be lying there wondering what you were doing."
"Which is probably what I'd be doing too."
"So that's hardly useful," Jim replied. "Hey, how many more sheets do you have to sign?"
"Just these three," she said, holding them up. "Does that mean we are almost finished?"
"It does indeed."
"Excellent. We can finish this up and then I'll take you home and make you some dinner. You can just be lazy for the rest of the night."
Jim smiled. "You haven't exactly had an easy day of it either. I thought in times like these we just split the difference and order in pizza."
"I don't mind looking after you. I can tell you've been bit down lately."
"Thanks," he replied, brushing his hand against hers as he stacked up the last of the reports. "But you don't have to."
"I know I don't have to," she replied, her hand reaching for his. "That's why I want to."
Jim stood up and walked around to her side of the table, pulling her up and into a hug. After a few minutes Pam took a step back. "Come on, Assistant Regional Manager. Let's put this stuff in an envelope so we can get out of here."
Jim was on his way back from the men's restroom when he saw that Pam had stacked the mail on the reception desk and was reaching for their coats. He realized that he had forgotten to take the ring out of his coat as the small bag fell out of his pocket and landed squarely at Pam's feet, the box almost comically rolling out.
Jim froze for the moment, wondering what he was going to do. It was quite clearly the box for a piece a jewelry. For a ring, or maybe earrings. But certainly not something easily explained away as nothing. And even if she somehow couldn't guess it was a gift box, the brown plastic bag with the name Boccardo Jewelers in gold letters made it hard to deny its origins.
Pam handed Jim his coat and then bent down to pick up the bag in one hand, and the velvet box in the other. Her eyes asked a hundred questions, or maybe it was just the same question hundreds of times. But she said nothing, and putting the velvet box delicately back in the bag she handed it to Jim.
"This fell out of your pocket," she said quietly.
"Thank you," he replied just as softly, completely lost for words. He held the bag in his hand, just staring down at it as if it would tell him what he should do next. He watched as she turned toward the coat rack again, this time taking her coat down and starting to put it on. Her silence told him that she had to know what the bag held, what was in that box. But this wasn't at all the way he ever expected to tell her about it.
Jim leaned back against his desk, feeling utterly exhausted. He dropped his coat on his desk, while still holding on to the bag holding the engagement ring. Pam had finished putting on her coat and reached for the envelopes when she noticed he was still at his desk.
"Are you okay?" she asked. She took a step toward him as he finally looked up at her. He knew he had to tell her. He so wanted to tell her. He'd been carrying around so much for so long, and he'd finally reached the breaking point.
He pulling the velvet box out of the bag, dropping the bag on top of his coat. He held the ring box tightly in his hand. He ran his free hand through his hair once again. "I need to sit down I think," he said, walking toward the grey couch. "Is that okay if we just sit for a minute?"
Pam put the envelopes back down on the counter. "Of course it is," she replied, taking off her coat and laying it down on his. She tucked her one leg under her as she sat down next to him, turning to face him. Jim sat hunched over, his elbows on his knees and his hands clasped around the box.
"Do you want to know how long ago I bought this?" He asked, his head turned to see her face.
Pam's eyes never wavered from his. "How long?"
"Six months." He replied, his gaze returning to the box. "I bought it on July third of last year, and today's what? January eighteenth? So over six months, actually."
Pam said nothing, her hand simply resting against his thigh. He looked up at her again. "You know what's in this box, don't you?"
"No," she said simply.
Jim sat up a bit straighter. "Really? You have no idea?"
"I know what I'd like it to be," she said, "but I can't see inside a closed box."
Jim closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He had never really doubted that she would say anything but yes to a proposal, but it was still gratifying to hear her encouraging, if teasing words. He wanted so much to finally just unload all the secrets he'd been carrying around inside for so long. He didn't like keeping things from her.
"Guess how many times I have tried to propose to you since I bought this?"
"What?" Pam asnwered, confused. "What do you mean 'tried to propose'?"
"Just what I said. Since I bought this ring I have tried to propose to you several times."
Jim couldn't help but laugh. "Don't sound so surprised. Or I don't know, maybe you should. Maybe I'm insane. But I've tried four times to give you this damn ring."
Pam moved her hand from his thigh to his shoulder, gripping it tightly. "Jim, what in the world are you talking about?"
"Pam," he mimicked. "I'm telling you the honest to God truth. I have attempted to propose to you on four separate occasions since I bought this ring."
"Well, let's see. First there was Labor Day weekend. Remember when I left you on the swing and ran back into the house?"
Pam kept staring at him, but he could see that the memory was slowly coming back to her. "You went in the cabin to get the ring?"
Jim nodded. "Only to come out to find that Benjamin had been just that much quicker."
"Oh my God," Pam said slowly, her hands covering her mouth. "No."
Jim nodded. "Yes."
"Oh my God," she said again, her hands moving to rest on his forearm. "I am so sorry."
Jim shrugged. "How could you have known?"
She rested her head against his shoulder. "Oh, you poor thing. How awful. I wish I had known."
"Well, I just brushed that first one off - figured I'd get another chance to ask you."
"When did you try again?"
"That afternoon at the corn maze."
"The employee night?"
Jim nodded. "I was all set to ask you when Dwight and Michael started shouting for us."
Pam let out a giggle.
"It's not funny, Pam." But Jim couldn't help but crack a smile as he chastised her.
"I know," she said, her head still against his shoulder. "But what were you thinking with those two anywhere near?"
"I can see that now," he replied. "But trust me, at the time it seemed like a great idea."
"I'll have to take your word for that," she giggled again.
"Nice, mock my pain."
She kissed his cheek. "What happened next?"
"Oh God," Jim groaned even now at the memory. "Attempt number three you will be able to guess with three simple words: burning Christmas trees."
Pam leaned back, her eyes as wide as saucers. "No!"
Jim nodded. "Yep. I have to admit that one is probably my personal favorite. I mean, if you are going to have your proposal plans hijacked -"
Pam doubled over in laughter. "I can imagine," she gasped between laughs. "I know I'll never forget that night and I had no idea of your plans. That's just too funny, Jim."
"I am so glad this amuses you. I was traumatized!" He couldn't help but join in her laughter.
Pam took a deep breath and wiped her eyes. "So there was one more?"
"Yeah," he replied. "And the fault for that one lies solely on your head. It was all going perfectly and you ruined it."
"I did?" Pam sat up straighter. "What did I do?"
"You thought you were being clever in leaving my shaving bag behind when we went to the city for New Year's Eve," he said softly.
Pam sobered up. "What?"
"You remember? You didn't want me to shave so you left the bag behind, even after I had put it in the suitcase."
"Oh Jim, no." She shook her head. "Don't tell me what I think you are telling me."
He held up the black velvet box. "Yes, Miss Beesly. This little box was tucked inside the shaving bag you took out of the suitcase."
Pam didn't much feel like laughing anymore. "Oh Jim, I am SO sorry."
"Yeah, you were sorry then, too," he said quietly.
"But I didn't know," she protested. "How could I have even known?"
He reached up and stroked her cheek. "I know. I don't really blame you. But I was shattered for a while when I realized it wasn't going to work out AGAIN."
"I don't know what to say. I"m surprised you just didn't give up on the whole idea."
Jim gave a single laugh, and leaned forward again, elbows on knees. "I went to the jewelry store today to return the ring."
"Oh," Pam said, and Jim couldn't help thinking how sorrowful such a single noise could sound.
"I thought maybe the ring was jinxed," he said. "That maybe I should just let you pick out your own instead of presuming I'd know what you'd like."
"Then what's that?"
He looked back at her. "I couldn't return it. I think I've grown kind of attached to it."
"That's good," she said, sounding almost shy.
"I hope you think so."
"I'm sure I will."
"Yeah," Jim snorted. "If we ever get to that point. Even after telling you all of this - which don't get me wrong, does make me feel a lot better - you'll forgive me if I won't believe it until it happens."
"What do you mean?"
"I'm waiting to see what next calamity hits when I try once again to propose."
"You don't have to wait," she said, her words painfully awkward, "You could - . Do you - ? "
"No." His answer was quick and resolute. "I am NOT proposing to you in the offices of Dunder Mifflin. I refuse. I can't."
"That's fine," she said quickly. "I just don't want you to think you need to make anything big out of this - You can't pretend you don't know what my answer would be."
"Are you serious?" Jim stood up, clearly agitated. "After everything we have gone through, you think a proposal should just be a throwaway occasion for us?"
"No, of course I don't," Pam bristled. "I can't even believe we are having this conversation, but since we are I think you are missing the point."
"Yes, and if you'll just relax and sit back down here with me I will tell you why." They stared at each other in tense silence until Jim sighed loudly and sank down next to her.
"Thank you," she said.
"Go on," he nodded.
"Don't you see that I don't care where we are or what you do? If and when you propose, all I'm going to care about is hearing those words. You don't need to make elaborate plans because what's going to matter most to me is that you'd reached the point where you think marriage is our next step. Jim, you know me better than anyone. How could you think I would care how you proposed?"
"It should be a big deal," he said stubbornly, his voice slightly louder.
"And I'm saying I agree that it is a big deal," she replied, her voice raising in volume as well. "It's a big deal because you want to marry me - not because you come riding in on a white horse or even riding a jackass when you do it."
Jim did a double take. "Did you just say jackass?"
"I believe I did," she replied.
"I never considered the option of riding in on a jackass."
Their eyes met, and they both fought to look serious. In the end Jim cracked first, and soon they both were giggling like children. Pam put her arms around him, resting her head on his shoulder. "I can't tell you how sorry I am you've been going through all this. It's not supposed to be like that."
"Tell me about it." He pressed his lips to her forehead. "But I really need to do this my way."
"Okay," she said, snuggling closer, "Just make sure you do."
It was approaching eight o'clock when Jim and Pam finally made it out of the office. Jim was exhausted, but his heart felt lighter now that he'd shared his experiences with Pam. He lost the fear that things were never going to work out, instead surprised to find it replaced with a sense of patience that he would just know when the right time had arrived.
They had stepped out of the elevator when Pam gasped and ran toward the front doors. "It's snowing!" she declared and headed out gleefully. Jim followed more slowly behind, noting that there was already more than three inches on the ground, and it was still coming down pretty quickly. He was briefly glad they had decided to ride together, and wondered in what conditions they would find the roads.
He heard Pam call his name and looked up. Pam was standing in the middle of the nearly empty lot, her head tilted back as she tried to catch snowflakes on her tongue.
"You are such a dork, Beesly," he called as he approached her.
"You're just jealous because you can't catch snowflakes."
She turned to face him and for a moment it was like he'd never really seen her before. There was a fine sheen of snow clinging to her curling hair, and the floodlights over head made it sparkle like glitter. Her cheeks and nose were already turning pink from the cold, and the smile she gave him made him feel so warm he was pretty certain his coat was completely unnecessary.
"What?" she asked as he continued to stare at her. "It's just snow, Jim. Try and catch some on your tongue."
Instead Jim found himself pulling the ring box out of his coat pocket and getting down on one knee in the middle of the snow covered parking lot. He reached out and tugged on the front of her coat to get her attention.
"Oh, did you slip?" She asked, concerned when she saw him kneeling in the snow. She reached for his hand, but stopped when she realized what was going on. "What are you doing?"
"You are without exception the most beautiful person I have ever known," Jim began.
"Jim," Pam protested, "You are going to ruin those pants kneeling in the snow."
"Pam," Jim said a bit forcefully. "Please let me finish."
"Sorry," she nodded, her hands clasping together in front of her.
"And this is not in any way, shape or form the way I would have imagined doing this, but I can't stand here and watch you, watch you being you, and not do this right now."
He took another deep breath as Pam nodded again. "Let's face it," he laughed slightly. "I don't know how to love any other woman but you. Believe me, I tried. I tried, and I failed. You are it for me. I need you to spend the rest of your life with me." He opened the ring box, was delighted when he heard her gasp loudly. "Will you marry me, Pam?"
Pam didn't say a word, but he could see her eyes were beginning to shine with unshed tears. He waited a moment longer, feeling the cold, wet snow seeping into his pant leg. "Pam?" he prompted.
"That's too much," she replied.
"The ring - you can't give me that!"
"I can, and I am, if you'll just answer the my question."
"Oh!" Pam exclaimed, the sudden realization that she'd not yet responded hitting her fully. "Yes, of course! Yes! Now get up out of the snow, you dork," she chastised him affectionately as she pulled him close for a kiss.
"Dork??" Jim protested as he finally stood up, although he had no problem kissing her back. "That's how we are going to start off?"
Pam's laughter filled the parking lot. "Yes, actually. Is that going to be a problem?"
"No," he replied, reaching up to brush some of the snow off her hair and shoulders. "I can't say I expected anything else." He reached for her left hand. "Care to try the ring on now?"
Pam looked down again at the ring and shook her head. "Jim, that's - that's just too much! I don't think I've ever seen diamonds that big before. I mean in person."
"Well, now you have." He tugged off her glove and pulled the ring from the box.
"It's too expensive," she protested. "How much did this cost? I know you must have spent entirely too much money on this."
"That's none of your business," he chided her. "Just try it on, okay? Can I just see how it looks?" He rested his forehead against hers. "Please? Humor me?"
She sighed and uncurled her hand. He slipped the ring easily on her finger. "Perfect," he smiled.
Pam stared down at the ring, sparkling brilliantly against the still falling snow. Pam gave a very unladylike sniff as tears starting to fall freely.
"Damn you," she laughed.
"What?" Jim smiled, wiping her tears off her cheeks.
"You knew once you put it on I wouldn't be able to resist it."
Jim nodded, his eyes dancing. "And I was right, wasn't I?"
"Maybe," she pouted. "But aren't you glad you didn't wait any longer for the 'Perfect' time?"
"Who said this wasn't it?"