The days had blurred together. He couldn't remember if she had been gone for a day, a week, or a year. All he knew anymore was this pain, this deep, dark pit that he can't seem to escape. Everything reminds him of her, life had seemed to lose all it’s color. It's a bleak existence, and one that he would do anything to get out of.
He dreams of running now, finding his peace amongst the lakes and trees. Slightly convinced that if he cuts himself off from society, he will stop missing her, find the light. But he is tied down, divorce proceedings and his daughter keeping him in Scranton. He hasn't seen Julia in a week, she was staying with Karen's grandma, who had decided to sweep his little girl off to the beach for a getaway.
“She needs a break,” was Mrs Filippelli's excuse. “She's been through a lot, too much.”
“Haven't we all?” is what he told her as he kissed Julia goodbye.
They really had been through a lot. The night that she left, he had fallen asleep on the couch, too exhausted to make it up the stairs. He had been woken up by the sound of his phone ringing, (Karen's lawyers would call him at the ass-crack of dawn most mornings), and his aching back.
It was hell, absolute hell.
“Sitting across from the woman who I promised to build a life with as she explained why she should get the house and full custody of our daughter is, I've decided, the worst thing I've ever had to do.” he told his mother over the phone that night.
“I'm so sorry, honey,” Betsy Halpert told her son, “it will all be over soon.”
“Yeah, I guess.” he told her, even if he didnt believe it for a second. He truly felt as if it would never end, that this nightmare was his new reality. He just wishes that Pam was here, she would know just what to say, just how to make him feel better, even if it was just for a second.
He had thought about calling her, but he knew that it was a dumb idea. She had made her decision, and he had made his. They weren't meant to be, and he had to live with that.
He had a photo album open in his lap, from the year that everything fell apart. The last photos of Pam before the parking lot, the kiss, and the first goodbye of many. She was so beautiful, so radiant. He missed her light, the way that she made every room brighter just by being in it.
His breath hitched when he saw a shot of her in that blue dress, with her arm around him. They were both smiling by a poker table, (probably because she thought his brutal loss was funny, and he was just happy to be in her presence), God, he misses those days. He misses the cadence of her laugh, how her hair fell into a reddish-brown halo around her face, and how funny she was. She was his best friend, and he now doubts he'll ever see that smile again.
The photos of Karen were equally heartbreaking. He was trying so hard to be in love with her in those early days, a fight that he ultimately lost.
She looked so happy in the photos, laying on the couch, posing in front of skyscrapers in the city, like everything was okay. Like maybe they would be okay if she loved him enough for the both of them. He wished that was how it worked. Instead they crumbled into a million pieces, a whisper of a relationship the only thing left. All he could hope for now was that Julia would be okay, that his brokenness wouldn't hurt her too.
His cursor was hovering over the “buy now” button on the delta website. A round trip ticket to Paris, hope of getting her back, everything he had ever wanted, all one click away. He told himself that it would be okay, that even if she said no, he would have tried. Yet still, something was holding him back. It just felt wrong, going after her after she rejected him three times. This wasn't up to him anymore, she knows how he feels, and no matter how much it hurts, he has to accept her decision. He has to try and move on.
The divorce had been finalized two days ago, he was finally free of the litigation hell that had defined the last eight months of his life. His first week with Julia was starting next Monday, and in the meantime, he needed a break, a re-start. So he packed an overnight bag and hopped in the car.
He drove through the night, until he reached the city. New York, a place where anything and everything felt possibille, even him getting over Pam.
He booked the cheapest hotel he could find and promptly fell asleep, promising to himself that he would relish in the beauty of the city tomorrow.
The sun was on his face. “Nature's alarm clock,” as his mom used to call it. He sat up in bed, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes. He hadn't slept well, but he told himself that it didn't matter, because he was in the “greatest city on earth.”
He spent the day wandering around. Poking his head into bookstores only to see Karen's favorite book prominently displayed, or trying to kill time in a coffee shop only to notice that they sell Pam's go-to tea. Everything was a reminder of them, and all the things he lost.
Eventually, around midnight, when he felt like the biggest loser on earth, he made his way into a club.
EDM music was pumping through the speakers as he watched the sweaty, twenty-somethings dance under the neon lights. He hadn't been to a club in years, and he let the energy of the space pull him in. Suddenly the pain was gone, replaced with bass and the brilliant colors reflecting off of the peoples faces. He started to dance, letting the music pull his body in a thousand different directions. He was sure that he looked like a chicken on ice skates, but fuck it, he was the closet thing to happy that he had been in almost a year.
A woman with the most platinum blonde hair he had ever seen came over to him.
“I'm Alyssa,” she told him.
“I'm Jim,” he said, his voice slightly stuttering.
“I saw you dancing and I just had to come say hi.” she said, yelling over the noise of the club.
She was beautiful, he realized, and he wanted to kiss her.
“Cool,” he told her, even if he knew that it was the wrong response. After years of marriage, he'd forgotten how to flirt.
They danced together for a little while, letting the music fill the gaps that conversation couldn't. Eventually he found himself up against a wall, his face not an inch from hers.
She leaned in, her lips meeting his. She tasted like vodka and cigarettes, like a stranger. He put his hand on her hips, even if it all felt wrong. The fabric beneath his fingertips should be of a soft cardigan, the hand in his hair should be stained with ink. Hell, he should be able to remember her name. He pulled away, leaving Alyssa with nothing more than a, “Sorry,” he left the club.
It was raining as he walked back to his hotel. Heavy drops soaking him to the bone. He just felt so dirty, like he had just cheated on her. But that's the thing, Pam wasn't his, she never had been. So why did this feeling linger, the idea that he still owes his love to her. He wondered if he would ever shake the feeling, or if she would hold his broken heart in her hands forever.
He escaped the city earlier than he expected, sightseeing lost its appeal quickly. By the time he got home he was exhausted, the toll of the weekend, and the club catching up to him quickly. He fell asleep almost immediately, crashing onto his bed with a grunt.
He woke up the next morning early, and cursed himself for it, (later on he would tell Pam about that morning, and she would tell him the same thing every time, “It was a cosmic thing, that day. And who are we to fight what's written in the stars?”)
He showered and ate the stale cereal he found in the back of the cabinet. The box told him that it was a “breakfast of champions,” he just laughed and said, “we'll see about that,”
He was laying on the couch, watching reruns of “Seinfeld” when the door rang. He got up to answer it, confused as to who it would be. He couldn't remember ordering a pizza, and the mail had already come, god, he just hoped that it wasn't someone trying to get him to sign a petition or something.
The door swung open, and there, standing on his doorstep, was Pam. She took his breath away, her almost supernatural beauty never failing to make him feel like he was just struck by lighting.
“Pam,” he struggled to get the words out, he was still so amazed that she was standing in front of him, “what are you doing here?”
“I um…” she mumbled, clearly at a loss for words too.
But then, she took a step forward. And suddenly his lips were on hers. Stars were all he could see as he kissed her back, his hands in her hair. It was magic, pure, sweet, beautiful, magic. His hands didn't leave her waist as she pulled away, he couldn't let her go.
“I came to do that.” she told him, a shy smile on her face.
She came back for him, she really came back for him. This couldn't be real, he had to be dreaming, Right?
“But I thought…” he blurted out, the doubt that was running through his mind spilling out of his mouth.
“I love you, Jim.” she said it with so much confidence, like it was the only true thing she knew. It was enough to make his doubt fall away, enough to let him soak in a moment that he had been dreaming about for the past six years.
“Wow,” he breathed out. “I can't believe this is real.”
“Believe it.” she told him with a laugh. He let out a laugh as well, his face now wearing a huge grin.
And believe it he would. The woman of his dreams loved him, and that was enough to make him believe in anything.
She had her arms wrapped around his chest when he woke up. The weight of her body next to him, it was a feeling that he could get used to.
“Good morning,” he breathed out as she stirred awake.
“Hey,” she said, “I haven't slept that well in…”
“Six years,” they said in unison. He waited for her to say “jinx!” but instead, he was met with a comfortable silence and the feeling of her burrowing her head into his chest.
“You're not going to jinx me?” he asked her as he leaned down to plant a kiss on the crown of her head.
“I spent a year not being able to hear your voice, and now that I have it back, I'm not giving it up for anything. Especially not a coke.” she told him, and they left it at that.
They spent the day together, both of them unable to stop smiling. They were together, after years of heartache and pain, they were together, and that was a truly divine thing.
“I love you,” he told her as they drove home that night, a song that they once listened to on a drive home from work filling the car.
“I love you too, and I'm not afraid to admit it anymore.” she said.
It was one of the best nights of his life, just his love, the radio, and all the stars in the night sky.