Pam turned the corner to see Jim standing at the driver's side window of a dark green Honda Civic, Lisa's car. The engine's hum prevented Pam from making out any of their conversation. She slowly made her way up the sidewalk, crossing her arms and rubbing the back of her elbows like she was cold, though she wasn't.
"Pam!" she heard a girlish voice call. She turned her head to the open passenger-side window.
"Hey Lisa," Pam said, sounding more cheerful than she felt.
"Don't take any more of Jim's money, okay? We have a wedding to pay for," Lisa said with a broad smile, her large blue eyes shining.
Pam glanced over the top of the Civic, and couldn't stop herself from smiling when Jim gave her an accusatory look which quickly melted into a smile.
"I think Jim knows when to cut his losses," Pam said, still looking at Jim.
Lisa turned back to Jim, "I'll see you later."
Jim leaned over to give Lisa a light kiss on the lips. Pam cast her eyes down and started to twirl a ring on her right hand.
Jim waved as Lisa drove away. He turned towards Pam; his hands shoved into the pockets of his dark khaki slacks. "So…" he started.
"So… Lisa left early," Pam said.
Jim shrugged, "This isn't really her thing. She hates it when I host poker night, I didn't expect this to be different."
Pam nodded, and smiled towards Jim.
"You're leaving on your trip soon," Jim said, in a way that was more statement than question. The trip he was referring to was a summer program that was sending Pam to Italy for a month. She was going to study Renaissance Art History in Florence, earn some university credits, and conveniently be out of the country on Jim and Lisa's wedding day.
Pam felt her face make an overly excited expression, "Yes, Sunday, have to be checked in at the airport by 7 am."
Jim grimaced, "That's rough. Can you sleep on planes?"
"Oh no, I'll be staring at everyone around me the whole eight hours there."
Jim laughed, "And you come back the 18th, right?"
Pam hesitated, "I fly back then."
"So then you'll be back that Monday, or are you taking an extra day to recover?"
She looked down to her hands, twirling the same ring she was playing with before. "Well, the thing is …"
"Pam?" She looked up to see Jim with a worried look on his face.
"I put in my notice," she blurted out.
Jim furrowed his eyebrows and smile slightly like she was joking. Pam's eyes darted around and Jim's look shifted back to worry. "You're leaving?"
"I told Michael a while ago." She forced a chuckle, "I am absolutely shocked he didn't say anything."
"Yeah, that's – that's amazing, really." Jim looked up towards the building; his lifted his hand and started scratching the back of his neck. Then he shook his head lightly, and Pam noticed his breath quickened. "I'm sorry, this is just … do you have another job lined up?"
"I guess I'm going to figure that out when I get back. I'm thinking about starting school again full time next winter, get a degree. I might even move."
"Where?" Jim said urgently.
"Boston, New York, I don't know, just somewhere … else." Pam looked at Jim's concerned face. "It's not a big deal. This isn't exactly a career job."
"No, it's definitely not that. I just – just can't believe today was your last day and I didn't know it." He put on a playful smile that barely masked his concern, "There's still time to get Dwight really good, just give me a few minutes to plan."
Pam smiled lightly, "It's okay, the coat rack this morning was fine note to go out on."
"So, what, three years of Michael Scott turned out to be your limit?"
Pam shrugged, "It's something like that."
Jim brows knitted, as if he was seriously thinking. "Was it when he left you alone with Todd Packer for half an hour?"
Pam laughed softly and shook her head, "No."
Jim smiled, "Because that is a legitimate reason to quit, it's on page 60 of the employee manual."
Pam admired Jim for trying to cheer her up, and any other time it would have worked.
"Okay, um, was it when he tried to convince you to play his girlfriend when Jan last came in?"
Pam shook her head again, this time not laughing.
"Was it when he—"
"No," Pam said, sniffing a little.
Jim's face fell.
"It's not Michael, it's not the job, I just …" her eyes stung.
She gazed at his hand, specifically at the finger that was going to have a gold band on it soon. She still remembered her first day at Dunder-Mifflin vividly. She was sure she wasn't going to be able to stand Michael Scott and Dwight Schrute's antics for any longer than six months until a tall, lanky, and boyishly handsome salesman invited her to Cugino's. They laughed and bantered and Pam felt like this could be something. Then she learned he had a girlfriend, and Pam kicked herself for hoping for more so quickly. She watched Lisa and Jim progress like any normal couple would. A year after that lunch at Cugino's, Jim moved in with Lisa. Six months later they got a dog. Another six months after that, they were engaged. Every event made Pam seriously look through the want-ads of the Scranton Times-Tribune. Then Jim would enlist her to play a new prank on Dwight, or shoot her an affectionate glance, and Pam would allow herself to hope a little longer.
But Pam's well of hope was quickly running dry. She knew the pain in her chest when Jim announced his engagement was going to pale in comparison to the pain she will feel when Lisa becomes Mrs. James Halpert in three week's time. It was unbearable to even think about.
"I can't." For a second Pam didn't know if she actually said it or just thought she did.
"You can't what?" he said softly.
She looked up at his face and for the hundredth time the words escaped her. This was always the point where she would remember that Lisa was sweet and supportive and loved Jim and Jim loved her back. When Pam would question what right she had to tell an engaged man she loved him. When she would conclude that she can't give her pain higher priority than his happiness.
Pam quickly wiped her eyes, hoping he couldn't see the tears but knowing he did, "You know, I should go make an announcement while everyone is still here. Say good-bye to everyone, right?"
Jim pressed his lips together. She could sense his disappointment that she changed the subject, but he didn't push the issue, and she was grateful. "If that's what you want," he said quietly.
Pam nodded, "Yeah, I think so. I'll see you inside." She turned on her heels and walk towards the building. When she reached the entrance, she took a quick glance back to Jim; his hands were still in his pockets and he was looking at his shoes. She wiped her nose and cheek in one motion and walked through the double doors.