How did she get here?
It had started out as such a great day. Or at least a good day. Things had still seemed a little off with Jim, but last night he had agreed that he and she would have to move to New York together, so she had figured that weirdness would pass. It hadn't been too long ago that the former girl of his dreams had basically confessed that she had feelings for him now. It was bound to be a little weird for a while, right? While he got it sorted out in his head that Pam was firmly in his past?
Her interview went really well. She had been so sure she nailed it, and she was really looking forward to moving to the city. She'd always loved New York, and Scranton was a little too backwater for her taste. There was nothing to do there. Maybe Jim was okay with crashing on his couch in sweatpants six nights out of seven, but she needed a little more social and intellectual stimulation than that. She loved the feel of the city—the shows, the clubs, the hole-in-the-wall restaurants with live jazz bands. The nearest thing Scranton seemed to have to that was Poor Richard's. Once had been enough for her in that dive. It was a hole, all right, but in an entirely different sense.
After the interview, she had spent five or ten minutes bragging to Jim about how there was no way he would ever beat her performance. She made some jokes about being able to support him on her new salary. Asked him how he felt about being a kept man. In retrospect, his smiles had been a little too polite.
Jan had blown out of the building like a tornado, and good riddance. If the woman couldn't keep herself under control, she had no business being in a corporate environment. Women like that gave all professional women a bad name. She would have explained this to Jim, but she assumed he knew it already.
At the time she hadn't wondered if her reaction to Jan's meltdown sparked his releasing her into the company of her friends. And really, she wouldn't have cared much. She had barely restrained herself from checking her watch every two minutes to see if she could still make their appointment, and she was so glad when he said she could go. She still was, actually, even with the knowledge of what happened after lunch. If she was going to end up sitting here alone all along, she was glad she hadn't waited for him.
He had called before she expected him to, and she answered her phone with a hint of surprise in her voice.
"Hey, Halpert. They turned you down that quickly? I'm sorry—that just wasn't professional of them…."
"We said everything we needed to say," he cut in, with no trace of humor.
"Sorry, hon," she said. "I know I've been harassing you about this too much."
"You done with lunch yet, or…?"
"Not yet. But I can meet you somewhere afterwards."
"Yeah, no problem," he said, still sounding distracted. "I feel like taking a walk, anyway. Meet me in the park? By Bethesda Fountain?"
"Sure, what ti…."
"Okay, good. Bye, Karen." And he hung up.
That had been a strange conversation. Maybe she should have known something was up, but she just thought he must have bombed the interview.
She found him waiting at the fountain when she arrived. He was staring at a small piece of paper in his hand, running his thumb over something attached to it that glinted gold in the afternoon sunlight. He didn't see her coming, so she snuck up behind him and covered his eyes with her hands.
"Guess who?" she asked.
Guess who. Those were the last words she would ever say to him as his girlfriend. Because while she was saying them, she glanced over his shoulder and caught a glimpse of the memo he was holding, and she knew, she knew, why he hadn't seen her.
It was the same reason he had never really seen her.
In that second it struck her that he had never exactly said he would move to New York with her. At the time, she had heard him agree to it, but in looking back she realized that he had only agreed that they—as a couple—had no future in Scranton.
"Oh," she choked, dropping her hands.
He turned to face her as he stood, but he kept his hold on that stupid note with that stupid yogurt lid from that stupid receptionist who she, stupid, stupid, stupid Karen Filippelli, had thought she could supplant from his heart.
"Managed to see your way around to a future in Scranton, after all, huh?"
"Don't. You. Dare." She dug her fingernails into her palms to keep the tears from coming. "Don't you dare try to let me down gently, you lying, self-centered…." But she couldn't think of a word that would hurt him as much as he was hurting her.
"I did lie," he said. "To both of us. To everybody."
"Over, and over, and over."
"Yes. And I'm…."
"Don't apologize. I am really not…." She sighed, a gruff sigh that was almost a snarl. "How long have you known?"
"For sure? About 45 minutes. In the back of my mind…too long."
"We can still work this out," she said, and hated herself for sounding desperate. "You don't have to do this."
"Yes." His eyes were red as he looked at her, but she saw him grip the note in his hand more tightly. "I do. It's not fair to either of us not to."
"Would've been nice if you had been concerned about fairness before I moved from Connecticut for you," she spit at him.
"I know." A tear ran down his face.
She hated that even when he was dumping her, even when he had just admitted he had been lying to her for "too long," even then she couldn't help feeling that ultimately he was a nice guy.
"I have to go," he said, and she knew exactly where he was going. "Do you…um…."
"Drop my bag off at my place," she said. "I'll take a bus home."
"You can still ride with…."
Karen stared at him, her eyebrows raised and her lips pressed so firmly together they were almost white. He took a deep breath and nodded. She was glad he didn't offer to pay her fare.
"Well," he said, and though he didn't apologize it was stamped all over his face.
She rolled her eyes and shook her head. Her forgiveness wasn't going to come that easily.
He didn't say good-bye, just nodded and raised a hand half-heartedly before he turned and trudged off toward the closest subway station. She waited until he was out of sight and unclenched her fists. The nail marks were angry, stinging. But they weren't deep enough to keep distracting her, and she sunk onto the bench built around the fountain, sobbing.
The Bethesda Fountain was named after a place of healing, she remembered suddenly, although she knew the fountain itself more from its connection with seemingly dozens of romantic movie moments than for the originally intended symbolism. Now here she was sitting here with her heart broken, crying her eyes out, facing a long dreary bus ride back to dreary Scranton where she'd either have to start updating her résumé or work at the same company as her newly ex-boyfriend and his new girlfriend.
Those were the choices facing her. Her, Karen Filippelli, who always had her life under control and always got her way.
She didn't know how she got here, but she swore she wasn't going to be here long.