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She heard herself saying the words and knew she was a liar.
“I’m really sorry…if you…misinterpreted things…”
If she was being honest she’d admit had started a long time ago.
A year after she started working there she had shown him her portfolio. There was dust clinging to the creases in the imitation leather and the zipper caught a bit when she opened it.
When she did and nervously let him flip through it, his reaction was nothing short of…amazing.
“These are incredible.” He whispers as she sits across from him, nibbling on her nails nervously.
“Thanks.” She blushes.
“I mean…really, really, good.” He insists.
“Thanks.” She says again her heart beating a bit faster.
He looks up and squints his eyes as he gazes at her. “What are you doing here again?”
She keeps her eyes on his before she answers. “Keeping you from dying from boredom.”
“Oh yeah.” He laughs. “Keep up the good work.”
Without even thinking about it, she bought him jellybeans, because he’d mentioned once that he loved Easter because of the candy.
She experimented with many kinds and realized that he liked the gourmet ones the best.
In the back of her mind, she kept waiting for Roy to notice. But just like the fact that sometimes he didn’t notice her standing right next to him, he didn’t seem to notice at all.
It was like she lived two separate lives, one at home, and one at work, one with Roy, and one with Jim.
Her life at home was comfortable. It was predictable, it was…safe. They had dinner every Sunday with Roy’s family and she’s been going for so long it seemed weird when something came up and wound up someplace else instead.
Roy and his brothers would watch football, or…hockey…or baseball and she’d sit with his mom and his sisters-in-law and it was…nice.
And most days, it was enough.
No one could say being a receptionist was exciting. Well – maybe if she was a receptionist for a record company or a television studio or a magazine. But being a receptionist for a mid-size paper company really was far from thrilling.
“How many things have you taken already?” She giggles.
He gives her a scolding look. “Pam. How many times do I have to tell you? Speak in code.”
“I’m sorry.” She gives him a look of extreme remorse. “Have there been any new acquisitions to your collection?”
“Beesly what is wrong with you? That’s supposed to be code?” He looks at her blankly. “Have you learned nothing?”
She rolls her eyes. “Give it up, 007 – c’mon what’s going on?”
“Steve will be here in an hour. I’m going to wait for Dwight to leave and then…” He gives her a grin. “Oh my God. I cannot wait to see the look on his face.”
“I’m going to buy the pencil cup I think.” She says trying to keep her laughter at bay.
He knew he could count on her. “Excellent choice.” He whispers as he grabs a few jellybeans and heads back to his desk.
More and more often, when it was quiet and she was sitting alone at home, when Roy was out with the guys and her friends were all busy and had moved away and there was really no one else to call up on a Friday night she’d think of him and wonder where he was or who he was with.
Sometimes she’d had enough of Roy. Sometimes she couldn’t take the fact that it was so easy for him to leave and think she’d follow blindly. It made her so angry she goes back inside, back to…Jim.
“I think those might be empty.” He says as he gives her a look.
She begins to giggle, nearly uncontrollably, “No, no. 'Cause the ice melts and then it's like second drink!”
He twists his mouth and stares at her. “Second drink?”
She was drunk, that’s all. She shakes it off later. Drunk and annoyed with Roy. And that’s why she kissed him.
Save me Jim. Stop me. I dare you…
On the cruise for a second she wonders what life could be like, if she and Katy switch places. Because she knows that she’s never sat at the cool table in her life.
And neither had Jim.
She has a feeling in the pit of her stomach that she’ll never get married and for years she’ll just sit there watching Roy relive every moment of the years that have passed him by. It makes her cringe watching him.
“Snorkel shots! Snorkel shots!”
And she goes to get her coat because he’s got an audience already.
Katy’s there, cheering him on.
As she stands outside with Jim the voice that she’s been trying to squash for months, or maybe it’s been years, gets louder.
Save me, Jim. Stop me. I dare you…
It keeps rising. Every time she picks up the phone to make plans she swears she feels his eyes on her. And when he tells her, awkwardly about the so called “former crush” he had on her she thinks this might be it.
Save me Jim. Stop me. I dare you…
But he laughs it off and insists it’s a thing of the past and that night Roy looks like he might really be interested in her choice of centerpiece and she’s so used to just taking scraps from him that it’s more than enough.
One day she knows that it’s hopeless. He’s not going to save her. He’s leaving for Australia, two days before she gets married.
And she almost recognizes the ache in her chest but she shrugs it off as mere disappointment.
Her life is comfortable, reliable, normal. She’s not all that complicated. It was enough for most people. It will be enough for her.
She hopes so…
She walks beside him and watches him buy fabric softener and she thinks,
”This is what it could be like, if we actually went places together, if we actually were together…”
He holds her arm gently and keeps her steady as they skate around the rink. If she actually stops to think she’d realize that that’s what he’s been doing all along. He’s been keeping her steady, enabling her to move on, because if not for him she’d have wasted away a long time ago.
But even with that he surprises her, by complaining to Toby about how often she makes calls to plan the big day. And in the back of her mind she knows what that means. He’s not so over her after all.
Save me Jim. Stop me. I dare you…
It’s getting close now, just a few weeks away.
She takes his money at poker. Roy leaves her yet again but she really doesn’t mind. She’s happy, she’s wearing a new dress and the air is warm and he looks like he’s got something to say.
“I’m in love with you…”
The ground shifts beneath her feet.
“I’m really sorry, if that’s weird for you to hear but I needed you to…hear it.”
The world spins.
She panics. It was not how she pictured it. She thought he was going to say let’s go back inside, double or nothing.
Instead there are bigger chances to take.
She babbles and tells him in essence, he’s crazy. He doesn’t want to hear it. She watches him cry…she’s made him…cry and she knows what that ache in her chest is now.
She can’t be angry, or even surprised. He’s just doing what she’s been begging him to do all along.
And when she sees him walk into the office, with his head down and his hands stuffed in his pockets. She opens her mouth to stop him.
But it seems he’s done listening. He kisses her breathless and as he does only one thought flies through her mind.
Save me Jim. Stop me.
I dare you…