MEMBER'S CHOICE - The Jim and Pam saga affects more than just those two. Sometimes it's hard to sit by and be a mother while those two dance around the subject.
New Chapter added - more Jim/Pam holiday fluffiness. :-)
Categories: Jim and Pam
, Alternate Universe Characters:
Angst, Holiday, RomanceWarnings:
Mild sexual content
December 11, 2006 Updated:
November 25, 2007
Chapter 3 - What She Sees by time4moxie
Okay - Thanksgiving Day at the Halperts. This one runs pretty long - but it was a long day! It was harder to write than I expected, mostly because i had so many people to account for, and I wanted to flesh it out without hopefully making it boring!
So enjoy, and let me know what you think!
Larissa Halpert arose quietly at six o'clock in the morning on the day of Thanksgiving, careful not to wake her still sleeping husband. She had a list of ingredients already floating in her head covering the many treats and dishes she hoped to serve over the course of the day. The first order of the day was to make sure the turkey was properly cleaned and prepared, and into the oven for roasting before the start of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade.
Thanksgiving had always been Larissa' favorite holiday. She grew up watching the parade, her family all home to share good food and companionship. As she grew up and had a family of her own, her responsibility to provide the meal made the day a little more stressful than when she was a young girl, but she soon learned to divide the tasks and take time for herself to enjoy things as well. Together they ate, drank, played games, laughed, and generally felt things were right in the world for that one short day. It was like Christmas without the pressure of finding the perfect gift.
Over time they expanded their celebration from just her and Greg and the children. They invited grandparents, aunts, uncles, visiting friends, whoever was near and dear and wanted to take part. Jonathan, Jim and Jessica had each brought home friends and/or romantic partners at different times. Their Thanksgiving table sat anywhere from a small party of five to busting table of fifteen. You could never be sure from year to year how many people would turn up at the Halpert household on the fourth Thursday in November.
This year the count looked to be holding at nine, including Pam. Jonathan brought his long-term girlfriend Kathy home, Jessica was in from Penn State but this year came alone. Then there were Greg's younger sister Elizabeth and her partner Audrey who would be arriving mid-morning to spend the entire weekend. It was the one time of year they had the chance to spend any quality time with women Larissa loved like sisters. It seemed both a good number and an interesting mix of personalities to Larissa.
Her inability to sleep in this morning was also directly related to the upcoming surprise. Several times last night Larissa considered telling Jim that Pam was coming over for Thanksgiving. He had been in the house since last night, deciding to sleep over so he could spend more time with Jonathan and Jessica. It had brought back memories of a louder, earlier time, and Larissa just sat back in her chair and took it all in. Kathy made a nice addition to the family, even if some older, more fussy relatives didn't recognize her as such since she didn't wear a special ring or have the same last name. Larissa had known Kathy as a match for Jonathan not long after she first met her. She knew they would be together indefinitely and had no need for a marriage license to be presented to welcome Kathy into the family.
When she watched Jim that evening she realized she already felt that way about Pam. She thought the idea sounded ridiculous, even for her, but it was the truth. She could so easily imagine Pam fitting in with this bunch that could barely contain her excitement for tomorrow. This was why on more than one occasion she found herself biting her tongue instead of asking Jim what Pam would think or want in regards to food or activities on Thanksgiving. It was better to just wait and see. She feared if she let it slip, he'd have too much time to build up his defenses. If he could just be himself, be Jim, she knew tomorrow stood a chance of ending happily.
She was lost in thought over the potential outcomes of Pam's arrival when Jim startled her by walking into the kitchen. His tousled hair gave away the fact that he clearly had just gotten out of bed, and he was wearing a grey t-shirt so old and faded you could no longer read the writing. It matched well with the flannel pants he had on - dark blue and grey plaid soft and faded from a million washings. His feet were bare, and for a moment Larissa pictured him at half his age. He gave his mother a kiss on the cheek and headed toward the fridge.
"You're up early," she said as she continued rinsing vegetables under the tap.
"Happy Thanksgiving to you, too," Jim grinned, pulling out the gallon jug of milk and placing it on the counter. "It's not that early, Mom. It's already eight o'clock."
Larissa glanced at the time, amazed that two hours of solitude had passed. "Heavens," she said. "I had no idea how quickly the time has passed. Can you get the bags of bread cubes from the pantry for me?"
Jim poured himself a tall glass of milk, put the jug back and started to help his mother with the stuffing preparation. Growing up, he was the one who always seemed most interested in helping with the cooking duties, and because of it had learned he had both fun and culinary success in the kitchen. The last couple of years he had even taken over the making of a few traditional Thanksgiving dishes, and the dressing was one of them.
The next time Larissa looked up at the clock, it was past eight thirty, and she was starting to feel a bit anxious. She told Pam to arrive shortly before nine, because Pam had said she loved watching the parade as well. Larissa took that as yet another good omen, for while Jim never admitted to it, the fact was he got up early every Thanksgiving had more to do with the parade than with helping her cook. Larissa thought it was perfect ice breaker for them to start the day with. She looked over at Jim, still in his pajamas.
"Hey, uh you going to dress like that for the parade?" She asked, as nonchalantly as she could.
Jim shrugged. "It's just the parade. Aunt Liz and Aunt Audrey aren't going to be here until noon, right?"
"Well, I don't know. They said mid-morning."
"And we all know that means noon at the earliest," Jim smiled. "Do I need to be cleaned up for Matt Lauer and Meredith Viera?"
"Well, it is Meredith's first year hosting," his mother shot back, "you could show a little respect."
Jim laughed and continued mixing in the stuffing ingredients. Since Jim's appearance in the kitchen, a slow but steady stream of other waking family members shuffled in and out of the kitchen. Jim's father, already dressed for dinner, came in for coffee, greeting both Larissa and Jim with a hearty 'Happy Thanksgiving.' He gave his wife a kiss, patted Jim on the back, and wandered back out to drink his coffee in the living room.
Jessica appeared shortly after eight thirty, also looking for coffee.
"Since when do you drink coffee?" Jim asked.
"Since I started a double major three years ago, Dorko," she replied. "Honestly. I'm not twelve anymore, Jim." She made a face at him and followed her father into the living room.
"Has she always been that snotty?" Jim asked his mother with a wink.
"Oh no," Larissa replied, laughing. "She used to be worse."
"Ah, I hear entirely too much merriment going on in here," Jonathan said brightly as he walked into the kitchen. "Happy Turkey Day, folks."
Larissa was done at the sink and turned to give her eldest a hug. "Happy Thanksgiving, Jonathan," she said. "Is Kathy still sleeping?"
"No, she's just finishing up whatever it is that she does," he smiled. "She'll be in time for the parade, Mom."
It was Jonathan's running joke with his mother that the stress level rose in the house as the minutes clicked down to the start of the parade. The turkey had to be in, people had to be up and dressed, and bottoms had to be in their seats as the opening credits of the parade started.
Larissa feigned a glare at him. "Just get what you need and get out of here, boy," she said. "I don't need your impertinence."
As Jonathan left with two glasses of juice and a smile, there was a knock at the back door. Larissa felt her stomach knot up slightly. "Can you get that for me, Jim?" she asked, immediately tossing some fresh mushrooms into the sink. "I need to get these mushrooms washed."
"That can't be Liz and Audrey," he said, shooting her a concerned look. "Are you expecting someone else?"
Larissa gave her best blank stare back, but refused to say anything. She drew the line at outright lying. She watched over her shoulder as Jim walked over to the door and opened it.
"Happy Thanksgiving, Jim," she heard Pam say brightly.
"Pam," Jim replied. He stood in the doorway, just staring at her, with his hand still on the door handle. "What are you doing -"
"Happy Thanksgiving, Pam," Larissa called out, cutting off Jim's comment. "Please, ignore the poor butler service we have and come in out of the cold!"
Jim took a quick step back to let her in. "Happy Thanksgiving" he said quietly to her as she passed. He shut the door and ran his hand through his uncombed hair.
Larissa noticed he spent more than a moment staring at Pam. She was casually dressed in jeans and a burnt orange polar fleece v-neck sweater, the neckline embroidered with autumn leaves. Her hair was pulled back into a ponytail with the scrunchie a similar color to the sweater. She couldn't read her son's thoughts, but Larissa thought Pam looked radiant.
"I brought what you suggested, Larissa," Pam said, putting a wicker basket on the counter. "I hope they turned out okay."
"I'm going to run upstairs and get changed," Jim mumbled, scowling slightly at his mother.
Pam turned toward him, a slight smile on her face. "Why?"
"I'm in my pajamas," Jim said a bit gruffly, "and seem to be the only one around who is."
Pam's smile grew broader. "If I was at home I'd totally still be in my PJs. It's Thanksgiving morning - you look fine. Besides, do you really want to leave and take the risk of missing out on the double chocolate muffins I made?" She opened up the basket she'd been carrying to reveal an impressive array of muffins - a mix of banana nut and double chocolate.
Jim took a step closer to inspect the basket. "Are those the double chocolate ones you make one with the semi-sweet chocolate chunks baked in?" He asked suspiciously, eyebrow raised.
"You mean the ones I brought in last year, only to have them never make it to the break room because refused to let me take the container off your desk?"
Their eyes met briefly. "Hey, they were good. I just called first dibs." Jim justified.
Pam offered the basket to him. "Yes, of course they're the same ones. I made a double batch this time."
"Score!" Jim grinned, taking the muffin basket out of her hands. "Awesome, Beesly."
Larissa bit back a laugh. This was turning out better than she had hoped. She had told Pam to bring along something to eat while watching the parade. She was glad Pam was a clever enough girl to remember to bring along something she knew Jim loved. "Jim, take Pam and the muffins into the living room and get settled in for the parade. I will be right there."
"Come on, Beesly," he said. "You might as well meet the other crazies."
By the time Larissa sat down in the chair next to Greg, the first Broadway musical cast was performing. She took a sip of her coffee and glanced around the living room. It seemed Pam had a baker's touch, as everyone had a muffin and she heard several compliments on the flavor. Jim was eating a chocolate muffin, and had another one sitting in his lap. Larissa smiled.
Greg had recently splurged on a flat screen HDTV, and Larissa was still amazed how much more room it freed up in the living room. They had been able to fit matching leather wingback chairs in the corner where the entertainment center used to sit, and the television now hung over the fireplace. Jonathan and Kathy were relaxing on the sofa, Jonathan's arm stretched out along the back of the couch and his hand resting on Kathy's shoulder. Jessica had one leg thrown over the arm of the double-sized chair, and directly across from Larissa and Greg sat Jim and Pam in the love seat.
Pam was leaning against the left arm's cushion, her head in her hand as she watched the parade, and her feet tucked up under her. Her shoes were off and placed neatly to the side of the love seat. Jim held a similar pose on the right side of the love seat, his chin resting in his right hand has he leaned against the arm cushion. His long legs were stretched out in front of him, crossed at the ankle. There was a narrow strip of empty cushion space between them. Larissa caught Jim's attention and smiled at him. He did not look nearly so displeased with her has he had when Pam first arrived, but it was clear he had some thoughts he wanted to share with her. She raised her eyebrows as if to say "please don't hate me" and was rewarded with a grin. Yes, things were looking good.
The Halpert clan was a vocal group, and through the years had become self-confessed connoisseurs of parade festivities. Therefore there was an on-going commentary on everything passing by on the screen. Nothing was sacrosanct from critiquing, or in some cases, outright mocking. Jessica in particular was terribly hard to please. Pam quietly listened to the ongoing commentary, but Larissa noticed her smiling a time or two. As the morning went on, Pam began interjecting a comment or two herself.
"Oh my god, what are those Rockettes wearing?" Pam exclaimed. "They look like barber shop poles!"
Jonathan burst out laughing. "I think they're trying to be candy canes, Pam."
"I agree with Pam," Jessica interjected. "Definitely not loving the stripy look."
"They look much better in the Santa suits," Pam added.
"I think all their outfits are a little strange," Jessica replied. "But the Santa dresses are definitely the best choice."
"I think you ladies are just jealous," Jim mused.
Pam kicked her foot out from underneath her and into Jim's leg. "Shut up," she told him. "We are not!"
"Ow!" He complained, grabbing her foot. "See? I'm being persecuted for
speaking the truth."
Pam rolled her eyes. "Oh yeah, you're so on to me."
Jessica laughed, "Jim just wishes every girl was a Rockette. He's had a thing for them since he was little."
Pam smirked at Jim. "Maybe he justs wishes he were a Rockette," she said. Her comment made even Jim's father laugh. Jim pinched her foot in retaliation, which was still resting against his thigh.
"There's nothing wrong with that," Jim replied, crossing one leg over the other.
"You are built for it, Jim," Larissa agreed. "You could bring a whole new look to the Rockettes."
Pam giggled at the whole conversation. "I'm never going to be able to look at Radio City Music Hall in the same way," she said, looking at Jim. He said nothing but he couldn't resist smiling. When Pam looked over at Larissa, Larissa gave her a wink.
By the time Santa Claus arrived, Larissa noticed Jim and Pam had both moved toward the center of the love seat, and had noted they'd made quiet comments to each other during the show. They looked the very picture of the best of friends, and she felt a lump in her throat when she heard Jim teasing her about being excited to see Santa Claus. The look between them said nothing but love.
As soon as the parade ended a flurry of activity restarted to get the feast progressing. Jim went upstairs to change his clothes, Jessica invited Pam to help her peel potatoes and Larissa and Greg checked on the progress of the turkey.
Jonathan announced he and Kathy were going to search the attic for games to play while they waited for dinner. "But first," he announced, "We need to bring in our holiday present for you all, since I know you're all grumbling that we aren't helping out with the preparations in here."
"Don't you want to wait for your brother to return?" Larissa asked.
"Nah, it's not really that big a deal," Jonathan smiled. "I just wanted to make it sound important." Kathy gave him a nudge as they went outside.
Larissa remembered she'd left the lace tablecloth upstairs in the linen cabinet. As she came up the stairs she met Jim just coming out of the bathroom, wrapped in his old green terrycloth robe, and his hair still damp from the shower.
"Hey," Larissa said, opening the linen closet doors.
"Hey yourself," Jim replied. He leaned against the wall, arms crossed at his chest. "I imagine you are pretty pleased with yourself."
She stopped her ruffling through stacks of towels and sheets and looked back at him. "I'm doing okay. How about you?"
"A little warning would have been appreciated," he replied.
She nodded her head. "To give you a chance to come up with an escape route, perhaps?"
"Not necessarily. I just felt like a complete idiot answering the door in my pajamas."
"I don't know. She seemed to enjoy seeing you with the casual look."
"Oh, I know she did. I'm never going to hear the end of it."
"I don't mean like that," Larissa said. "I'm pretty sure I saw her checking you out."
Jim shook his head. "Now I know you're crazy."
Larissa found the tablecloth she was looking for and closed the closet. "Fine, don't believe me. But I know what I saw." She leaned over and gave him a kiss on the cheek. "Dress to impress, honey."
Larissa returned downstairs to the sound of jovial pandemonium. Elizabeth and Audrey had arrived as Jonathan was bringing in his gift, and the whirl of laughter and greetings temporarily put a halt to the dinner preparations. By the time Jim appeared, everyone had been introduced.
"Jim!" Aunt Liz said brightly, "We'd wondered where you were.”
“And I see you look as handsome as ever," Aunt Audrey commented.
Larissa had to agree, even if she was a bit biased. He had put on jeans but topped it with a shirt sweater combo that brought out his best features. His shirt was white, with a dark hunter green sweater over it. The v-neck of the sweater let his white collar more visible, and he had rolled his shirt sleeves up to just below the elbow. The sweater's color made Jim's eyes look even more green than usual. Larissa stole a glance over to Pam, whose face indicated she had not missed Jim's transformation. Larissa thought she really could get into playing the role of cupid.
Jim exchanged hugs with both Aunts and looked over to Pam, who was leaning against the sink next to Jessica. She smiled at him, and he walked over to stand by her.
Liz and Audrey had been partners for over twenty years, devoted to each other well before it was considered acceptable. They had met at college, fell in love, and had been together since. During the early years of their relationship, they presented themselves to the world as a pair of doomed-to-be-spinster friends. When they finally came out to their families, it was Greg who surprised them all by being so supportive and accepting. Their parents eventually came around, but Liz and Audrey never forgot the early days, and because of that chose to celebrate Thanksgiving with Greg and his family. Though Liz and Audrey lived in Chicago, they'd been there every year since before Jim started high school, and all three children grew to love their aunts even if they only saw them one weekend a year.
Jonathan clapped his hands together to get everyone's attention. "Since we are now all together, let me show you what Kathy and I have brought."
He lifted up the lid on the crate he'd brought in from their car. Inside where a dozen wine bottles. Jonathan lifted a bottle out, and handed it to his father. It was a bottle of Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Brut.
"Jonathan, you've outdone yourself," Greg Halpert said, admiring the bottle. "What else did you bring?"
"Just that," Jonathan nodded.
"Twelve bottles of Veuve Clicquot?" Jim asked, amazement in his voice.
"Jonathan, what's this about?" Larissa said. She began to have her suspicions that this gift was not just about Thanksgiving.
Jonathan couldn't resist smiling at his mother's question and turned toward Kathy, who had been standing next to him the whole time. They exchanged a glance, and he put his arm around her shoulder, pulling her closer.
"Well, we thought it would be a good idea to start this weekend off by letting you know Kathy's decided to make an honest man out of me. We've decided to get married."
Chaos reigned yet again as gasps and squeals of delight were emitted from everyone in the room. Larissa practically threw herself at the couple, and in her excitement nearly tripped over the crate of champagne. She embraced them both in turns, and then together in a group hug. Greg congratulated Jonathan, and hugged and kissed Kathy.
"Hey, let's get this champagne open," Jonathan interrupted. "Then you guys can fuss over us all day."
Jessica dug out a corkscrew from a kitchen drawer and handed it to Pam to pass to Jonathan. "Congratulations," Pam said as she handed over the corkscrew. "Sorry I'm the only non-family member intruding on your news."
Jonathan grabbed her wrist and pulled her over into a hug. "Don't be stupid, Pam. If you're here on Thanksgiving, you're family."
Jonathan handed the corkscrew over to his dad, and kept his arm around Pam while he motioned to his brother. "Jim, Pam's under the delusion she's not family," he said. "Clearly you have not been tormenting her enough."
Jim laughed. "I do my best."
Jonathan took Pam my the shoulders and pushed her next to Jim. "Work harder, my brother," he said. "I already can tell she can take it."
"O-kay," Jim replied.
"Oh, and another thing," Jonathan said. "We don't have any of the details sorted out yet, but I hoping you wouldn't mind being my best man at this thing."
Pam looked up between the brothers, smiling. Larissa was also watching, having heard the entire conversation.
"Of course, man." Jim said. "I'd be honored."
The brothers hugged as Larissa came over to hug them both. Soon everyone had a glass of champagne in their hands, and toasts to the couple and to the day were made.
Larissa insisted all non-chefs retire to the living room so cooking could continue. Jessica reminded Jonathan they still needed to go find some games, and Pam remained behind in the kitchen to see if she could help. Larissa shook her head.
"Not right now, dear. Go drink some champagne and bother Jim," she said, taking another sip of her champagne. "Oh, and that reminds me," she said, holding up her glass. "Did you bring an overnight bag like I suggested?"
Pam nodded. "It's in my trunk. I didn't know when it would be good to bring it in."
"I'll send Jim out to get it for you after dinner. It's a shame for you not to enjoy this day, so just plan on staying with us until at least tomorrow."
Pam smiled, taking a sip of her champagne. "Thanks, Larissa. I think I will."
Dinner was planned for three o'clock, but the turkey was being uncooperative. Jonathan had found their old Trivial Pursuit game in the attic, and so they spent the afternoon playing and drinking the champagne. They decided to play in teams, with the partnerships being less than surprising. There were Jonathan and Kathy, Aunts Liz and Audrey, Greg, Jessica and Larissa (who kept popping in and out of the game to check on the meal), and Pam and Jim. Even with the strength of team playing, the game was slowed by the effects of the alcohol. Simple questions seemed harder than usual, and hard questions
typically resulted in minutes of intense discussion followed by ridiculous answers.
A couple of glasses of champagne behind her, Pam was having difficulty restraining her competitive streak. She smiled when other teams missed their questions, and even clapped her hands when Liz and Audrey's wrong answer denied them a pie wedge. Jessica started trading trash talk with Pam, and soon the two women had everyone in stitches. At one point in the game Jim gave a correct answer that resulted in winning the Sports & Leisure wedge. Pam jumped up cheering, and threw her arms around him in victory. Larissa was
delighted. From the look on Jim's face, it didn't look he was minding
Larissa was once again checking the turkey when Jessica wandered in, sent on a mission to bring another bottle of champagne to the gamers.
"Having a good time, honey?" Larissa asked.
"No doubt. And it will be especially sweet once we crush Pam and Jim." Jessica laughed. "She's a real hoot, isn't she?"
"Yeah. I didn't know Jim had it in him to hook up with somebody that cool," Jessica grinned. "The only girlfriends of his I've ever met were nowhere near as interesting."
Larissa didn't correct Jessica's assumption that Pam was Jim's girlfriend. If that's how it looked, who was she to say otherwise?
The game from start to end took a little over two hours, but in the end Pam and Jim prevailed. Larissa was watching from the doorway when they came up with the answer to the final winning question, and she laughed as Pam jumped up and hugged Jim again.
"Winners get to set the table," Larissa called. "This turkey is finally ready."
She heard laughter coming from the dining room table as Pam and Jim put out the dishes, silverware, and table trivets. Mother and son exchanged amused grins when Jim came in with Pam's wine glass. He put it into the sink and grabbed a regular glass from the cupboard. "We're moving onto water now," he explained to Larissa.
Despite all the complications, the dinner turned out perfectly. Pam appeared to still be glowing from her win, and sitting between Jim and Jessica she continued to chatter happily. Questions from Jessica and Pam directed the table conversation to Jonathan and Kathy's wedding, and soon ideas both helpful and outrageous were being offered to the happy couple.
"I appreciate the ideas," Kathy laughed. "We really have no idea where to start!"
"Do you at least have a date in mind?" Greg asked.
Jonathan shrugged. "Maybe next September? Give us some time to do it right."
"Vegas." Pam piped up.
Jim looked at her, his amusement reflecting in his eyes. "What?"
"Vegas," she repeated. "You guys should just go get married in Las Vegas. So much less hassle."
"Oooh, I like that idea," Jessica remarked. "We could all go and spend a week out on the strip." She leaned over and put her arm around Pam. "Can you imagine the trouble we could get into?"
"Hey," Jim interjected, pushing her arm off playfully. "Find your own date."
"Okay, no fighting over Pam at Thanksgiving," Jonathan said. "and I really don't think we'll be getting married in Las Vegas."
By the time dinner was finished, everyone appeared to be moving a little slower than when they first sat down. Larissa began cleaning off the table, only to be stopped in her efforts by Jim.
"You made it, we can clean it up," he told her, taking the plates out of her hands. "Pam will help me."
Larissa sat back down next to her husband and continued to talk to Liz and Audrey while she watched the duo take away the dirty dishes and left overs. As it was all cleared away, people began to make their way into the living room to relax and watch some television. By the time Pam and Jim finished cleaning up the kitchen and wandered into the living room, the love seat had been claimed by Liz and Audrey. Jessica got out of the oversized chair and moved to the couch next to Kathy. She pointed to her now vacant chair, but Pam looked a bit unconvinced.
"Trust me, it's more than big enough for the two of you to fit," Jessica said.
Pam and Jim glanced at each other for a moment, then Jim shrugged and took the seat. Pam sat down next to him, and seemed surprised that they did fit. They were right next to each other, shoulders to knees resting against each other, but it was comfortable. Greg put on the end of the Lions-Packers football game, promising that It's A Wonderful Life would be beginning after the game.
Pam yawned soon after sitting down, and it was easy to see that the combination of champagne and turkey was going to take its toll soon. Barely into the opening credits of the movie, her head slowly dropped down against Jim's shoulder as she fell asleep. Larissa noticed how Jim kept looking down on his sleeping companion with a look of complete tenderness.
Larissa got up to get a drink from the kitchen, and as she did she went around the room picking up empty glasses and trash. When she was near Jim's chair she leaned over him. "Put your arm around her, silly," she said quietly in her son's ear. She turned and headed into the kitchen without looking for his reaction. When she returned a few minutes later, she noticed he had indeed put his arm around her, with Pam now sleeping peacefully with her head resting on Jim's chest. Larissa reached out and held her husband's hand as they watched the Jimmy Stewart classic.
About halfway through the film, Larissa glanced across the room, and noticed that Jim had fallen asleep as well. He was slouched back into the chairs pillows, and his arm had fallen from around her shoulder down to her waist. His head was tilted so that his cheek rested against Pam's hair. Pam's arm had also moved from her side to around Jim's waist. Larissa stood up and quietly took a blanket out of a basket under the coffee table and draped it over the sleeping pair.
“Aren't they adorable?” Aunt Liz said in a hushed voice. “You can tell how much they suit each other.”
Larissa nodded. She thought so, too.
When the film was over, Greg awoke from his catnap and readied himself for a rounds visit at the hospital. Jessica decided to escape to her old bedroom and grab a few things before she heads out to meet with some old high school friends. Aunts Liz and Audrey were taking her room for the weekend anyway, so she wanted to shift out whatever she needed so as not to disturb them when she came home late.
Jonathan and Kathy managed to stay awake for the whole film, but when Jonathan got up from the couch, he made a great show of a stretch and a yawn. After making sure their presence wasn't completely required for anything, they beg off to Jonathan's room for a short nap. Larissa made a big deal about newly engaged couples sneaking off together, which made Jonathan laugh and Kathy blush a little.
“Have a little more Veuve Clicquot,” Jonathan encouraged his mother, “and soon it won't even be like we're gone.”
Larissa shook her head. “Just go away, rotten child,” she said laughing.
Larissa brought out more wine and told Liz and Audrey to take the couch as she stretched out on the love seat with a glass of champagne in one hand and the remote to the new HDTV in the other. Larissa found that White Christmas was just starting on another channel, and Liz and Audrey approved entirely, comfortably ensconced on the sofa with champagne of their own. Still asleep in the double sized chair were Pam and Jim.
About midway through the film Larissa noticed Pam move, and while she tried very hard not to stare, she was too interested to see what happened to look away. Pam lifted her head slightly, opening her eyes. She looked up and saw Jim sleeping, her eyes seeming to study his face. Pam sighed and put her head back down on Jim's chest, closing her eyes again. Larissa noticed Pam shift in the chair, and move her hand further across Jim's chest, as if she was pulling herself closer to him. So at least one of them is happy to be in that position, Larissa thought. She looked forward to Jim's awakening.
Pam's movement must have woken Jim, because it was less than fifteen minutes later that Jim stirred. Larissa saw his eyes open first, and he remained still as he seemed to take in the changes in the room as well as in the film he had been previously watching. He sat up straighter, and in moving caused Pam to open her eyes and sit up. They looked at each other as Pam wiped her eyes, and then leaned back again, still partly resting against Jim. Larissa noticed Jim didn't remove his arm from around her shoulder. They stayed silently in that position until the film ended, and Larissa switched off the television.
“Anyone interested in turkey sandwiches?” she asked.
“I am, definitely,” Liz replied. Audrey quickly agreed. With nodding heads Pam and Jim slowly extricated themselves from the chair and followed the ladies into the kitchen. Jim helped his mother get leftovers out of the fridge while Audrey found plates and silverware to get them going. Pam stood at the kitchen counter, yawning and waiting to be of some help.
Jim brought two plates over to Pam. Larissa watched as Jim made up sandwiches for the both of them, per Pam's instructions. They seemed to be in a world of their own for the moment, and Larissa was glad of it. She had worried they might have woken up from the nap feeling awkward with each other, but it didn't appear to be the case. If anything, it seemed to be the opposite. She thought it was amazing that after all of Jim's worrying they were getting along so well, but came to the conclusion that being in such a different environment was probably the key. It's hard to fall back into old safety zones when they just aren't there. That things had gone so well so far was proof to Larissa that deep down, those two had the connection. She hoped they figured that out for themselves soon.
Larissa took her plate into the dining room, soon followed by Pam holding two plates. Liz and Audrey sat opposite Larissa and Pam, and Jim followed with drink for Pam and himself. He sat at the head of the table, just to the right of Pam.
“So what's the plan for tomorrow?” Liz asked.
“Probably the usual,” Larissa replied.
“What's the usual?” Pam asked.
“Shh,” Jim replied. “You don't want to know, or they'll rope you in.”
Liz laughed. “Now don't scare her away, Jim. We are talking about shopping, Pam. We like to join the crowds on Friday.”
“Oh, where at? Steamtown Mall?”
“No, we usually like to hit the outlet mall in Tannersville,” Aunt Audrey replied. “Have you been there?”
“I completely forgot about that place,” Pam replied. “I haven't been there in ages.”
“Well you are certainly welcome to join us tomorrow, Pam,” Aunt Liz said warmly. “In fact you and Jim should both come along.”
Pam smiled at Jim. “That sounds like fun.”
“Fun?” Jim mocked. “Are you out of your mind, Beesly?”
“Sure, it's the start of the Christmas season. Maybe we'll see Santa,” she grinned.
Jim shook his head in disgust, but Larissa noticed he didn't say no.
“I would love to join you,” Pam told them. “Will you be coming along too, Larissa?”
“I would not miss seeing Jim caught in an outlet mall on Black Friday for anything in this world,” she replied.
Jim groaned. “You are going to owe me big time, Beesly,” he told her. But Larissa saw him give Pam the tiniest of smiles.
As they finished their late meal, Larissa opened a cabinet and pulled out the Yahtzee game. “Did you think I'd forget this?” she asked to no one in particular.
“Excellent!” Pam exclaimed. “I love Yahtzee!”
Jim bumped his elbow against her arm. “I never would have guessed,” he teased.
Pam stuck her tongue out at him in response.
Dishes were cleared away and the game began in earnest. Like with Trivial Pursuit, Pam was a competitive and animated player. The dice were against her however, and Jim won the first round by rolling two yahtzees over the course of play. He took a great amount of pleasure in rubbing it in.
“Let's see,” Jim said slowly, leaning over to look at Pam's scorecard. “I beat you by how many points?”
Pam covered up her card. “Never you mind. We all know you cheated anyway.”
“Right. And how exactly did I manage that? I played with the same dice you did.”
“Hmph,” she replied. “Well then, you were just lucky. We'll see who wins the next game.”
“Oh, so I guess we're playing until you win, right?” Jim joked.
Pam smiled. “Is there any other way to play?”
The second game started off well for Pam, but by the middle of the game she was starting to despair. Jim wasn't doing much better, but Pam's frustration amused him to no end, and their banter made Larissa, Audrey and Liz giggle. In the end a surprise yahtzee by Liz sealed the game. Liz won by a margin of nearly 80 points, and Pam dropped her head to the table in defeat until the entire table had broken down in laughter.
Pam sat back up and sighed. “I'm thirsty. Can we take a break before I win the next round?”
“If by win you mean lose, then I'm all for it,” Jim relied, standing up. “I'll even help you get them.”
They took drink requests from the rest of the table and walked into the kitchen.
“So you really think Jim will come with us tomorrow?” Audrey asked. “That would be pretty amazing.”
Liz put her hand over Audrey's and gave it squeeze. “Have you seen the way he looks at that girl? I think he'd follow her into hell, much less an outlet mall the day after Thanksgiving.”
“Which to Jim is probably the same thing,” his mother laughed.
Larissa asked the women about the latest news from Chicago, and least fifteen minutes of conversation had gone by before she realized that Jim and Pam hadn't returned from the kitchen with their drinks.
“I wonder if they are having trouble finding the new bottles of soda,” she said. “I'll be right back.”
When she walked into the kitchen she noticed that only the soft light over the kitchen sink was on. She was about to flip on the main light when she saw Jim and Pam. They were standing at the other end of room, arms around each other. She saw Jim lean down and kiss Pam, and backed out of the room as quickly and as quietly as she could. Standing in the hallway, she felt a thrill like she'd just been given a five carat diamond ring. She wanted to clap but she was afraid they'd hear her. She wanted to tell someone but who? She couldn't tell Liz or Audrey without having to tell the entire backstory, and it really wasn't their business. So Larissa just took a deep breath, thanked the heavens for their intercession, and went back to the dining room.
“They'll be right in,” she assured Liz and Audrey. Then she starting chattering about what they might shop for tomorrow. Anything to bid Jim and Pam the time they needed.
When Pam and Jim did return with the drinks, they were calmer than when they left, but still smiling. It took a few rounds to get Pam back into the spirit of competition, and now and then Jim seemed a bit distracted. The round seemed to go a little slow, but Pam finally walked away with a victory.
At the end of the third game, Jim was ready to call it quits. “I am completely yahtzeed out until next Thanksgiving,” he declared.
“Oh I don't believe that, I saw the light in your eyes when you won,” Pam teased. “I bet we can get you playing again by New Year's.”
“Yeah, well, good luck with that, Beesly,” Jim said, standing up. “I think I'm just about ready to call it a night.”
“Oh,” Pam replied, looking to Larissa. “Do we know where I should go?”
“Why don't you go get your bag,” Larissa told her, “and we'll talk about it in the kitchen?”
Audrey and Liz wished Pam and Jim good night, and wandered off to their guest room to change into lounging clothes, determined to beat Larissa at cards when they returned.
Jim and Pam come back inside with Pam's overnight back, both a little chilld from the windy night weather. Larissa felt a little funny, considering what she witnessed, but she didn't want to let on about what she saw.
“Well, we're all adults here,” she began, “and the bedroom situation is like this. Jonathan and Kathy are in his old room, Liz and Audrey are using Jessica's old room so she's on the couch in the den. I could have thrown Jim out here in the living room, but we do have a folding bed, so I thought it would be okay to put it in Jim's room and let you share that room.”
If Pam was surprised at the arrangments she hid it well. “That makes sense,” she nodded. Jim looked at his mother briefly, the slightest of smirks on his face. He looked over to Pam and back to his mother. “Okay, well let's get you settled in then, Beesly.”
He walked over and gave his mother a kiss. “I assume we aren't getting up at some outrageously early hour to go to Tannersville?”
“Well I know I'm not,” she replied. “Don't worry - we'll probably head out there sometime after lunch.”
Pam walked over to Larissa. “Thanks so much for inviting me. I've had such a lovely time.”
Larissa gave Pam a hug. “You're always welcome, dear,” she said. “Have a good sleep.”
She watched the two go down the hall, still wondering what they'd managed to sort out between themselves. She hoped by tomorrow she'd be hearing some good news.
She played cards with Liz and Audrey for nearly an hour and a half before they all finally decided to call it a night. She hugged each woman good night, and went into the kitchen to rinse out some of the leftover dishes. She was cleaning up the very last of the coffee cups when Jim walked in. He was back to this morning's blue and grey flannel pants and t-shirt.
“You okay?” she asked.
He gives her a slight grin as he walks toward the fridge. “Yeah, I'm fine. We were just - I was just coming down to grab us a few drinks.”
“Still awake then?” Larissa smiled, amused as Jim's discomfort. “I thought you said you were tired.”
He pulled two cans of Coke from the fridge and shut the door. “We were. We are. We just sorta got started talking. I guess the time just got away from us.”
“Things going okay then between you?”
“Yeah, I think so.”
She noticed he had that sparkle in his eyes again. The one she hadn't seen in months and months. Larissa couldn't resist teasing him. “How good?”
She could see the tips of Jim's ears starting to turn red. “I am not having this conversation with you,” he said pointedly, unable to keep a grin off his face. “Good night, Mom,” he said as he turned to leave.
Larissa wanted to know more about his state of mind without embarrassing him. “She fit right in, don't you think?” She said.
Jim stopped walking and was quiet for moment. He turned back around to face her. “I always knew she would she would.”
Larissa looked at him. “Think she'll be joining us again next year?”
“Depends,” Jim replied. “Are you going to step in and invite her before I get a chance to?”
Larissa sighed, and made a face. “I am sorry if I upset you, Jim, by interfering like that,” she said, “but I'm afraid I can't say I'm sorry that I did it.”
He walked back over and stood right in front of her, looking into her eyes. “I'm not sorry you did it either, Mom.” He gave her a kiss on the cheek. “I owe you.”
Larissa hugged her middle child tightly. “You can pay me back by just being happy.”
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