"Funny thing," Roy greeted casually as his fiancée stepped off of hospital elevator, "I lost you while I was filling out forms."
"Roy, I am so, so sorry-"Pam hastily replied, pulling off her scarf and wincing at the stern looks that both Roy and his family were directing in her general direction.
"Where's the coffee?"
She adopted an appropriately confused expression.
"You went to go get coffee. Where is it?"
"I want to know where the coffee is," he ordered firmly, which made him all the more frighteningly pitiable in his grief. She took a step forward cautiously; afraid of what he would do if she moved too fast while his sister-in-law took an equally measured step toward Roy as if they were all playing flag football and she'd just declared herself on his team. Her children, who had been chattering innocently on a couple of waiting-room-chairs, fell silent in response to their mother's soundless warning.
Scanning the room quickly, her eyes darting from family member to family member, Pam felt outnumbered and queasy. She wasn't used to being on the spot.
"I didn't get coffee."
Her eyes settled on her would-be future husband and all she could think of was Jim; the way his hair fell in his face, and the way he looked at her with that faint, genuine smile that crept onto his lips after she'd kissed him. A thousand little details that made her head spin and tore her away from Roy, who was still talking to her in that firm, patronizing tone. She wished she had ended this long ago, so she wouldn't have to feel this creeping, gnawing guilt that threatened to swallow her whole. Poor Roy, losing both his father and his fiancée in a forty-eight-hour time period. Could she live with herself after this? Could she be the girl who handed back her engagement ring the day after a death in the family, regardless of what all their friends would think? It was amazing to her that something that felt so right to her could feel so wrong around Roy.
It was like that with her art, too.
"…you take off without a word and now you're acting like I'm not here. Are you going to ignore me forever? Because frankly, I'm sick of you always demanding attention. My dad is dead, Pam, dead, and you take off like this is an inconvenience for you-"
"It's not, Roy, I swear-there were just some things to take care of at the office, that's all."
His eyes narrowed, "you told me you called in."
"I did, but Michael left me a 911 message on my cell and I had to go in just to calm him down. That's all it was, I promise."
The lie slipped out easier than she thought it would, but it left a strange metallic taste in her mouth. It worked; his face easily morphed into an apologetic expression and he looked at the floor, shedding his earlier glare. To her surprise he closed the distance between them and enveloped her in a gentle, familiar hug.
"Why'd you lie?"
She tensed in his arms.
"You told me you were going to get coffee."
"I-I didn't want you to think I was leaving you for work," she stuttered out, and he nodded into her shoulder and pulled her closer. Seconds later, she felt tears seep into her shirt and felt like crying herself. The familiar, cold fingers of guilt knotted in her stomach, sharp and painful.
"No," she muttered softly, frowning, with tears glinting harshly in her eyes, "no. Roy, I can't do this."
He stepped back, "Can't do what?"
"I can't be here. I can't stand here and lie to you the day after your dad died."
"Pammy, not now," he pleaded quietly, his anger from earlier melting into fear. Somehow, he knew what she was going to say.
"I'm so sorry, Roy," she muttered, and the waiting room melted away as he slowly, painfully closed his eyes. She was vaguely aware of the hushed sounds of outrage his family was uttering, but she ignored the temptation to confront them. This was between her and Roy, "I-I didn't expect this to end like this, and I'm sorry to do this to you now. But I can't lie to you like this and pretend like everything's okay. I've been unhappy for months, and I think somehow you knew that. I think you've been unhappy, too, because we're different people from who we were in high school and we both have to accept that we will never be those people again. I love you, you have to know that. But I can't do this."
Her voice had grown stronger towards the end of her small speech, losing its tremor and adopting an air of conviction as she finally got to say the words that she so desperately needed to. For once, she wasn't thinking of Roy's reaction or how he would take the breakup. For once, she was satisfied with her decision and didn't have any doubt that it was the right one.
"Pammy…" he muttered, sounding lost.
"I know," she said firmly, tightening her hold on the purse slung over her shoulder, "I'm so, so sorry-but I have to go now. I will be there for you if you need me-all you have to do is call. But I-I have to go."
And that was it. Just like that, all those months of indecision came down to a couple of hurried words in a hospital waiting room and now she was done. Free.
Slipping off the ring on her left hand, she put it down quietly on the nurses' station counter and turned her back on the angry glare that Roy's sister was giving her and the heartbroken expression on the face she had once been so in love with. With a breath of air, she was gone.
His lips still tingled fantastically from her kiss.
Kevin had held up two thumbs up from his desk at the other side of the office and Phyllis had muttered a not-so-quiet 'it's about time', but it still felt like some sort of elaborate dream. Did that really just happen? Did Pam Beesley really just cross that invisible line that she drew years ago?
He fell even more deeply in love with her just thinking about how long it must have taken her to get up the courage to say that to him. Knowing that shy, cautious, amazingly practical Pam had just done a complete 180 and left him speechless, once again.
He couldn't wait for her to come back, preferably free of her big, bear-like fiancé.
There's no excuse for the lateness-well, there is. I was studying abroad in Rome this past semester, but I'm back! Write reviews, per favore!