Her cheeks are damp.
It’s wrong. What she’s doing is wrong.
When his hand had wrapped around hers at the wedding it had felt like a kindness. She was extending something to him - nostalgia maybe - in letting him take her home and lay her against familiar sheets.
Roy pushes into her with a soft smile, there’s a hint of awe in his gaze, like he can’t believe his luck. She hates it. She expected smug arrogance, him to be cocky about getting her back. He isn’t.
He caresses her, worshipping her in a way he hasn’t ever. His hands are gentle and lingering. They map her body like they’ve never explored it before.
Her heart is wooden in her chest. Everything she doesn’t feel overwhelms her.
Can you cheat on someone you don’t belong to?
She has no claim over Jim and yet this is a betrayal.
This is her admitting that there is no chance.
All hope is lost.
She grieves for what could have been.
With each thrust of Roy’s hips, the raw scar tissue coating her heart tugs and begins to bleed anew.
He leans in to kiss her, a tenderness long lost in the press of his lips. He must taste the salt on her skin.
He recoils instantly, brow deeply furrowed in concern. “Pammy,” he murmurs. “What’s wrong?”
She shakes her head. Fresh tears spill, warm and unbidden against her skin.
“Am I hurting you?”
His gentleness is making it all worse.
She can’t speak.
The sobs wrack her frame.
Roy pulls back, pulls out of her. “Pammy?”
His eyes are wide, confusion flickering through them.
She opens her mouth. “I can’t,” she croaks. The words taste familiar and another round of tears is imminent.
He stares at her, baffled and uncomfortably aroused. Another wave of grief washes over her, for what they could have been if she loved him still, loved him more. She grieves for the life she doesn’t want anymore and the one she does, but can’t have.
She is pure agony.
She can’t slow the tears. She can’t breathe. Her sobbing intensifies, nearing the edge of hyperventilating.
Roy stretches out a soothing hand, she wrenches herself away from his touch.
That’s what does it, her unconscious move away from him. The Roy she shared a life with for the past few years re-emerges. His gaze flashes with anger at her rejection. The softer Roy sinks under this new misstep of hers.
“Fine,” he snaps.
It takes him three steps to stride to the bathroom and slam the door.
She hears the shower start up and shakily gathers her things, dressing with unsteady hands. The tears keep coming.
Her car is still at the reception. Her fingers call her a cab. She needs to leave. She needs to get out of here before Roy realizes she’s gone and transforms from sullen to angry.
She’s hurt him, again. After years of near apathy it’s terrifying that she can make him feel this much.
The guilt claws at her. It comes from every direction. She feels it over Roy. She feels it over Jim. She feels it over Karen - she can’t stop herself from wishing her ill will and Karen doesn’t deserve that. She doesn’t know the mess she’s stumbled into.
The cab driver eyes her cautiously.
“Are you okay?” he asks.
“No,” she answers with such finality that he doesn’t ask her any more questions.
Jim’s car is gone when the tires of the cab crunch in the parking lot of the reception hall. She pays the man and wonders hollowly what she might have said had she encountered Jim over this poorly lit patch of gravel. I’m in love with you.
Her own casino night-esque declaration.
But, Jim is gone.
Her eyes sting with a mixture of dried tears and the knowledge that Jim isn’t spending the night in an empty bed with only his demons for company like she is.
He isn’t haunted with what could have been. He’s probably staring deep into Karen’s eyes and seeing his future there.
When she’d looked into Roy’s earlier, she’d only seen dim echoes of the past.
She drives back to her apartment in a fog of her inadequacies. She slips from her dress and underwear and tosses it all into the trash. There’s just… there’s no way she’s wearing that dress again.
There’s no point shoving in back into her wardrobe and pretending it won’t mock her every time she lays eyes on it. It’s cursed. It’s done.
She steps into the shower, turning up the heat as high as it will go. Her skin red and raw, she washes it and washes it again.
It’s not clean.
She can see the imprints of Roy’s fingertips everywhere.
She brushes her teeth a couple of times and slumps to the floor. It‘s no use.
She still tastes him. She still feels him.
She cries until she can cry no more. Her tears mingling with the water from the shower, until she doesn’t know where her sorrow starts and ends.
The water runs cold and she accepts that this is the best she’s going to do. She lingers a little longer, watching goose bumps form over her pinkened skin.
Her teeth start to chatter and it’s time. She switches the water off and squeezes her eyes tightly to see if anymore tears seep out.
The well has apparently run dry.
Self-loathing is tiresome.
She dries herself off and slips under her covers. She doesn’t expect sleep to take her, but it does, for a moment at least.
She tosses and turns and is assaulted by her thoughts all night. She wants to forget. She wants to remember. She wants the reminder that she never deserved Jim in the first place and it was completely foolish to think she could have him.
Hell, she doesn’t even deserve Roy.
She wishes her stupid tear ducts hadn’t betrayed her heart. She wishes that she could have just sucked it up and had mediocre sex that her heart wasn’t in and then gently broken it to Roy this morning that it wouldn’t be happening again.
She doesn’t know who she is anymore.
She has the feeling that if she looks in the mirror to figure it out she won’t like who she sees.
She makes it into work a little late after learning that there’s only so much makeup can do to disguise the red rims surrounding her eyes. The dark circles below them she manages to barely conceal.
Jim has taken to avoiding her for the most part. Usually when she does catch his gaze, there’s a shadow of sadness there. Today, however, he glares openly at her.
It’s like he knows about her betrayal. She lets the ire of his gaze fuel her own quiet discontent. He can’t possibly hate her as much as she hates herself.
To make matters worse, Roy appears at her desk around lunchtime.
“We’re done,” he snarls, depositing a box of odds and ends and things she didn’t deem significant enough to carry over into her new life.
She lets him have it. This is his attempt at saving face. She lets him think it’s his idea, knowing full well that they’ve been done since she handed his ring back months ago.
But, if he needs to declare it to their coworkers after she’s embarrassed him in such a personal way then so be it.
Over Roy’s shoulder, Jim swings his chair around to glare at her some more and that’s what cracks her composure.
She’s glad she cried so much last night, because it gives way to another stage of grief - anger.
She bows her head and lets Roy seethe at her, it’s better than this morose, apologetic version of him that’s been lingering for the past few months. This means he’s done. He’ll stop trying to win her back. That’s fair. That’s the way it should be.
He needs to move on, even if she can’t (not from the real source of her heartache anyway).
The anger that builds inside her isn’t for Roy. She feels terrible about last night, really. It was a mistake and Roy didn’t deserve her in her weakest moment like that.
He should move on.
They’re done after all.
“Don’t call me,” Roy slams his hand on the desk. She jumps a little at that. But yeah, she was never going to be calling him. He’s the one who’s been drunkenly calling her every other day and begging her to come back.
She hopes he’s done with that. This feels final. She watches his retreat, his shoulders slumping at the last moment, deflating as he steps back over the threshold of the doorway.
Her mind whispers a final farewell. There’s no reconciliation with Roy. That option exists no longer. It’s kind of freeing.
She really is untethered now.
Her empty ring finger feels even lighter somehow.
She takes a breath and dumps the box from Roy straight into the bin beside her desk. Done. It’s done.
She feels his eyes on her still. She looks up from under her heavy lashes and finds them dark and angry.
It flares her own anger further still. She will not cry in the office today.
Her insides buzz like fallen power lines, jumping and skittering all over the place. One more step and Jim’s in for a shock.
He doesn’t get to pull the pin on a grenade and throw it into her life and step away and ignore the fallout from the explosion. That’s not fair.
She shoots him a look. A warning to back off.
He ignores it.
He comes to her desk and taunts her with cool, callousness and untruths.
“Don’t worry, Pam,” his tone matches his dark expression. “I’m sure you guys will find your way back to one another someday.”
There’s an edge inside of her that she’s been teetering on and Jim has just pushed her over it.
She doesn’t care that they’re at her desk. She doesn’t care that they’re in the office. She doesn’t care that his girlfriend is seven feet away. She doesn’t care that all their coworkers can hear every word.
She’s over the edge. She. Doesn’t. Care.
“No,” she hisses. “You don’t get to do that.”
There’s a flash of surprise in his eyes before the glare returns in full force.
“You don’t get to judge me for Roy. Not after you left. I could have been happy with Roy. I could have made it work. But then you, you said things. You promised things and then you left. And now you’ve moved on. So, you don’t get to judge me for how I act after you blew my life up and didn’t stick around to pick up the pieces.”
She pauses and gulps a breath. “You don’t get a say in how I move on now.”
She’s on the brink of tears again, and didn’t she use these all up last night?
“Roy and I are done, but so is this thing with us. Done.”
His jaw drops and fire flares in his gaze.
She picks up her purse and walks out the door. She’s taking lunch.
She hits the car park and the burst of adrenaline from her flicker of boldness fizzles. She digs for her car keys in her purse with shaking hands.
He follows her to the parking lot because of course he does. They’re magnetic, drawing each other close and then pushing each other away when they’re almost connected. The poles never align the right way.
She’s sick of the pattern.
“No,” he shakes his head, striding towards her. “This isn’t done, Pam.”
“Why?” She’s barely holding it together - if you can call anything from the past twenty-four hours holding it together in the first place.
“It hasn’t even begun,” he’s standing in front of her now.
“You shot me down… and I left, which was kind of impulsive, but I couldn’t stick around and watch you be with Roy any longer.”
“You didn’t have to,” she deflates, her anger remains up at her desk. She couldn’t fit it in this purse even if she tried. “I called off my wedding because of you, but you were gone.”
“I’m here now,” he pleads. “I’m here now.”
She’s not sure she believes him.
“No,” she murmurs. “You’re with Karen now.”
She unlocks her car and slips inside.
His head hangs and his hands settle in his pockets. She watches him in the rear view mirror as she drives out of the lot.
It’s a sunny day. She heads to the park. After an hour, she calls the office and tells the machine that she won’t be coming back in — for the day, not forever, although there’s a part of her that considers it.
It’s been a long time since she’s felt this way. She’s been tied in knots for months upon months upon months. Jim disrupted her equilibrium years ago. She appreciated it early on. He provided her with something she didn’t have. He was the friendship that was so lacking her relationship with Roy. It shouldn’t have come as a shock that something built on teenage lust lacked a steady foundation.
Jim, Jim was her foundation.
And her foundation had been rocked.
She had rebuilt herself, slowly, piece by piece, she put herself back together.
She could survive in the aftermath.
It didn’t make her want Jim less. But, it was nice to know that she could do this on her own if she had to. So, she let the calm settle over her.
There’s a steady breeze and the constant chirping of some sort of bird. She turns her face to the sun and waits on the day to end.
She blinks and darkness looms on the horizon. She rises on steadier feet than she arrived on and drives home.
Long legs spill over the end of her porch. Jim is sitting on her front steps, silhouetted in the fading light. “I broke up with Karen,” he greets her. “It’s you, Pam. It’s always been you.”
“It’s you for me too,” she answers him. “From here on out.”
She steps into him, the guilt from last night still claws at her so she draws her arms around him and hugs him tightly. His arms wrap around her in reply, tugging her even closer.
She feels his lips in her hair and she wants to turn her face towards him, but…
“I’m sorry for last night, for leaving with Roy.”
He stiffens for a moment, before taking a deep breath that echoes through her.
“I’m sorry for leaving with Karen.”
With that, he runs his hands soothingly over her back and she hates herself a little less. If he forgives her, maybe she can start to forgive herself. She turns her face upwards and lets him soothe her scars with his lips.