Disclaimer: These characters and the Office do not belong to me, no copyright infringement is intended and I do not intend to profit from this posting.
“Christmas is the time to tell people how you feel…”
Jim trailed off and smirked uncomfortably for the camera as he carefully slid Pam’s card into the box, along with the simple green teapot he’d bought her last weekend.
Jim never got a good name in the holiday drawing. He’d gotten Phyllis last year. He bought her yarn and a crochet hook because his mom suggested she might enjoy a crafty gift. He went with it since he had no clue what Phyllis might really want. He’d gotten Kevin the year before, and he’d given him a box full of scratch off lottery tickets. He’d never seen Kevin smile so widely as when he opened that box, in fact it was a little unnerving that a gift from a gas station could make him so happy.
This year, when Angela came around with an Elf hat full of little balled up pieces of paper, Jim nervously put his hand in, silently praying that just once something would go his way. Then he drew out Pam’s name. It felt for a moment like the world stopped spinning. His heart jumped in his throat as he read the name over and over as if he didn’t quite believe it, embarrassed that just the sight of her name made him so happy. He nodded solemnly to Angela and she moved on to spread her own harsh version of the holidays to the others. He hoped that no one saw the way he had to bite back a smile as he took out his wallet and put the little slip away for safe keeping.
The rest of the day had been a loss in terms of sales as he intermittently surfed the web for the perfect gift; something with just the right mix of friendship and love. Something that would mean a lot to her, that she could associate only with him. Something Roy would never think to give her.
It came to him over his daily ham and cheese. Pam had mentioned once that she would like a teapot to keep on her desk. At first, he wasn’t sure about giving her a kitchen-y item, it wasn’t as romantic as he would like, but then he thought about stuffing it with small mementos of their friendship, things that he hoped she would recognize as important souvenirs of the past.
Weeks passed and he began to worry he would never find the right one. He didn’t want a cold metal one, or something that looked like his grandmother would use it. A last minute trip to the kitchen supply store for his mother’s present had produced the green teapot. He knew she would love it from the moment he saw it sitting on the shelf. He scooped it up carefully, running his fingers over its smooth lines, its curves soft and feminine. This was the perfect teapot for Pam.
The teapot sat innocently on Jim’s desk all week waiting to be packed up for the party, but he waited to box it up, enjoying the idea of her unwrapping it more than the idea of actually wrapping it himself. On the night before the holiday party, after one too many viewings of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’, he placed the carefully selected items into the teapot and put it in the box.
Right before he went to bed, he sat down to write a short card. He intended to write something about Dwight and the next prank he had in mind, but instead he found himself pouring out a much more emotional sentiment, one he didn’t even realize was so well formed in his brain, so ready to burst forth. He wasn’t sure what gave him to nerve to write such a revealing message to her, but it seemed like the right time to tell her. Maybe it was the lights, or the mistletoe, or the fact that everywhere he went he heard that stupid Mariah Carey song “All I Want for Christmas is You”, but somewhere in between it all he had decided to take a chance this year. A big chance.
On the day of the party, sitting in the kitchen with Les the camera guy, Jim started to feel his stomach rumble with nervousness. Was he really going to put it all out there? He tried to swallow the excitement of the moment, the potential of what could happen today when she opened the card. Trying to push back his emotions, he reminded himself that he had to hide his feelings for Pam from the camera lens pointed at his head. He was only just ready to tell her, he wasn’t ready to tell the world. He decided the best way to keep his secret was to refuse to look up, to focus on finishing up the present. Les would eventually lose interest…he hoped.
The cameraman paused waiting for Jim to continue but finding him silently enthralled in the gift, Les pushed back from the table. “Ok Jim, thanks for giving me a minute.” Les started to get up from the chair, awkwardly balancing the camera on his shoulder. Taking a few moments to wind up cord for the camera, Les reflected on his time with this documentary crew. He had seen it all in this small office and he was rarely impressed by the little bits of emotion that he caught on film, echoes of more important feelings that people let slip in between talking about their mundane life at Dunder Mifflin.
Something about this last interview was different; he felt strangely sad and hopeful for the young man in front of him. He paused and watched as Jim started to tape up the wrapping on the gift. “Hey, uh, Jim?”
“Yeah?’ Jim barely took his eyes off of his current wrapping job, used to Les being nothing more than an annoying kind of ghost: there but not really there.
“Um…I hope Pam loves your present.” As quick as the words were out of his mouth, he was out of the room, leaving Jim to wonder if he ever existed at all.
“Well I mean it’s an iPod…”
Pam shifted unsteadily to steal what was clearly the grand prize for this Christmas, oddly purchased by Michael of all people. Her chest tightened uncomfortably as she rationalized her choice to Jim. Obviously the teapot was a thoughtful gift; it was from Jim after all. It was just like him to buy her the perfect thing, to think of something that she would love but never ask for, never think to buy for herself. But she could never afford an iPod, maybe a knock off or a smaller MP3, but never a real iPod. Jim would understand.
“Sorry.” She didn’t really know why she was apologizing. He’d do the same right? Right?
“No, no, definitely.” He shrugged, trying to play off the absolute panic that his gift had fallen into the hands of Dwight. Jim felt certain there was no other person in the world that he wanted to have that teapot less than Dwight. He’d probably make beet tea in it or something. And the gifts inside…the card - his stomach twisted in horror. It wasn’t that he had forgotten the card, but he was so absorbed by the ridiculousness of the Yankee Swap that it never dawned on him that his, well, sentiment might not reach its intended recipient. He watched Pam swap for the iPod and felt absolutely numb; how had his plan gone so wrong. All he could do was chew on his bottom lip as he sadly shook his head. It was official: nothing with Pam Beesly ever went his way.
He felt a sudden surge of anger at Michael. If he weren’t so immature everything would have been perfect. After all, who doesn’t need an oven mitt? Why couldn’t he just keep it and suck it up like everyone else?
Actually, Jim knew if he were honest with himself, he wasn’t just mad at Michael, but it hurt too much to admit who he was really angry with. After all, he’d never really been mad at Pam, they rarely fought, and, of course, there was the fact that he loved her. As his eyes settled on his shoe laces, he felt hollowed out on the inside; he’d finally admitted it, to himself, to her in writing, and yet she still didn’t get it. Jim knew in his heart that he was never very good at hiding his feelings; they bled through no matter how hard he tried. If Pam couldn’t see it, couldn’t admit it, she just wasn’t really looking. And if she couldn’t give him the benefit of the doubt today, well, maybe he had misjudged their relationship.
Pam sat back down at her seat with the iPod, trying not to look up at Jim. Why was it that everything had to be so complicated where he was concerned? If her head were a little clearer, if she really thought about it, she had a suspicion why, but she never let herself think about that. And she really didn’t want to think about it today.
Maybe it was all for the best. After all did she really need some sweet reminder that Jim knew her better than anyone on her desk staring at her every day? Wouldn’t it be better to load an iPod full of songs that make her think of Roy, of when they were so in love, of the day that met, and prom, and the night he suggested they get married. She could load in songs for the ceremony that she hoped would really happen one day. If she could put in the headphones and turn up the volume, she could drown out the doubts she’d been feeling, drown out the nameless flutter when Jim was near.
She took a deep breath and dared to watch as he walked back to his desk. He seemed normal, not hurt, not disappointed. He was fine, they’d be fine. She nodded to herself solemnly, as if to give herself courage. They would always be friends, really good friends, best friends.
She gathered up her new gift and headed back to her desk, excited to show it to Roy.
Jim watched from his usual perch as Roy and Pam huddled over the iPod. He surveyed the contents of his desk for a moment to see if there was a pencil sharp enough to just get it over with and put himself out of his misery. Perhaps he could throw himself on the jagged top of the tree.
There were many reasons this day had turned into a nightmare: Dwight with the beloved teapot and the card, Michael - just in general, getting drunk with a roomful of people Jim didn’t really care about realizing that he spent more time with them than anyone else, chastising himself for getting his hopes up that the kind of romance seen all over the TV this time of year was real, the fact that he had to duck into the men’s room as Kelly blasted that stupid Mariah Carey song again this afternoon. The worst part of all of this was realizing that Pam didn’t feel it. She couldn’t; if she did she wouldn’t have swapped his gift. He would never swap a gift from her.
Usually, he would turn away and pretend to make a sales call, but today it just didn’t seem to matter. He could shrug it all off, make Pam think it was fine, but inside it just wasn’t and he was beginning to fear it would never be.
He felt a little nauseated; how could she take so much from him and not accept his affection. He hated these moments, the ones where he realized how much of his own energy he invests in her, when she so easily leaves him at the office to go home to her fiancé. Maybe it was time he stopped padding her from the reality of her dysfunctional relationship with Roy. If it was Roy she wanted, let her have him.
He just wanted to get that card back from Dwight. He wanted the teapot back too, but if he could just get that card, destroy it like he wished he could destroy the sentiment inside it, maybe then he could deal with the wreckage of the day.
Pam spent the next hour thumbing through the owner’s manual on the iPod and intermittently watching Dwight with the teapot. Slowly, her gaze settled entirely on the little green teapot. It truly was beautiful, just like a teapot she had been admiring in People magazine one day at lunch. She had been reading an article about how celebrities were all drinking green tea and Jim had joked that she was setting a trend. She had pointed out that Madonna apparently owned this perfect little teapot that she kept nearby when she was relaxing; she had absentmindedly mentioned that she would love a teapot like that to keep on her desk. But she had shrugged it off realizing that Roy would think such a thing pointless, frivolous. ‘It’s tea Pammy, it’s not like you’re the queen of England.’
Her stomach sank as she began to realize the mistake she had made. Her head had been spinning with the vodka. It was an iPod…it was the wrong choice. She sat slowly down in her chair, hands pressed into her stomach as if to try to hold in the butterflies. No one paid attention to her like Jim did, paid attention to what she thought, what she wanted. The only other person who came close was her mother; what would she say if she were here? Pam was pretty sure she knew. Pam’s mom liked Roy, but even she would tell her to get the teapot back.
She paused for a moment realizing that Roy would be absolutely furious if she traded the iPod. She pursed her lips, taking in a deep breath through her nose, steeling herself for the decision she was getting ready to make. She couldn’t untangle all the emotions or decipher what they meant, but she knew, Roy might be mad, but she was going to swap with Dwight for the teapot.
“No, I was just, um, checking out my present.”
“But…” Jim couldn’t complete his statement, rendered speechless by how beautiful Pam looked at she sat the teapot in front of him. She had a slightly mischievous smirk but a look in her eyes that was warm and kind, the kind of look Jim felt all the way to his toes. He couldn’t believe it; she had swapped for his gift. The weight and anger of the afternoon lifted as they exchanged unrestrained smiles.
Pam felt a nearly electric excitement at Jim’s reaction, the kind of slow heat and giddiness in the pit of her stomach that she had to admit seemed to be happening more and more often lately. In his surprise, he didn’t take his eyes off her, adding to her overall discomfort; they were way outside of their normal territory. She felt the need to downplay her trade for him, to distract him, break the moment a little. Somehow, ‘I couldn’t stand to let anyone have this gift when I knew you took the time to actually pick out something special for me,’ seemed too revealing a statement.
“I traded with Dwight. Um. Just, I figured, you know… you went to a lot of trouble, and it means a lot. And also Roy got me an iPod, or, uh, was going to get me an iPod, so…”
She stumbled on the words remembering that Roy saw the iPod as a chance to buy her another meaningless present, so unlike the gift in front of her. As Jim leaned in to show her the bonus gifts, she couldn’t contain her happiness; for once she didn’t even try. Even as Les’s camera lens zoomed in to catch her reaction, she smiled and squealed without any consideration of how it looked. For a moment, she didn’t care what anyone thought; she just let herself be happy.
She pulled out the little presents inside the teapot and laid them one by one on her desk. Small trinkets collected over the course of their friendship, things Roy would have thrown out, in fact, he would never have known their importance in the first place. She knew that she would put all of these precious items in her own shoebox in her closet at home. Hidden on the top shelf of her closet, she had her own collection of yogurt lids and paper clips. If he had them too, what did that mean?
Jim watched as she went through each item, naming its importance and laughing. He carefully leaned in and pulled the card out of the box, certain the movement was just outside of her line of sight. It just wasn’t the right time; after the rollercoaster of the day, he couldn’t be sure of how she would respond to his declaration. He slid it surreptitiously into his back pocket as she pulled out the boggle timer. The same stupid item Jim used to prove that if he wanted to he could get Pam to laugh within 60 seconds. He felt something strangely like hope rise in his chest when she remembered that day. All these little things had to add up to something, he just wished that would add up to her returning his affection.
She felt Jim move nearer to her and back away all at once as she poured over the contents of the teapot: the picture, the hot sauce, the boggle timer, the pencil…it was like he was hovering over her, close enough for her to feel his warmth but quite frankly not close enough at all. She decided to ignore the wave of emotion that hit her because it was all too much right now, too much to deal with along with the alcohol and mistletoe and Roy being so nearby.
“This is…really great Jim. Thanks.”
She felt the split second inexplicable urge to steal Todd Packer’s mistletoe and make good use of it, but instead she smoothed her sweater and walked purposefully around the desk to pull Jim into a sincere albeit chaste hug. He fought every ounce of desire in order to keep the hug a platonic one, but that didn’t keep him from wishing he could take her somewhere, away from all this and show her how much he loved her. She felt him melt into her as he bent down a little to pull her close and she couldn’t help but whisper, “Merry Christmas, Jim.”, even though in her head it sounded more like, “I love you.” She wondered what it sounded like to him?
They pulled apart and she could see the confusion dance on his face as she tried to muster a tight smile. Before awkwardness could ruin the moment, she walked back behind her desk to look through the gifts, choking back tears that only she knew were pricking at her eyes and trying to hide her smile behind the reception counter. Jim was left bewildered by their embrace and barely managed a quiet “Merry Christmas Pam”, spoken in a hushed tone to her retreating figure. He turned and made his way to the break room for a bottle of water. Something cool, something calming.
Pam settled back into her chair and reached in the package to open the card, not taking her eyes off the array of things before her. When her hand met nothing but tissue, she blindly reached further, figuring the card had sunken down in the box. As it finally dawned on her that her fingers were not finding the card at all, she turned her full attention to the now opened gift box. It was all tissue, no card. Pam’s brow furrowed as she began to visually search on her desk, under her desk, on the counter. There had been a card tucked in the box and she had saved it especially for last, wanting to savor whatever Jim had written for her. Now it was gone, what could have happened?
She thought over the last few minutes, trying to reconstruct where she could have misplaced the card that went with her gift. Jim had come over, she had pulled out the teapot, they had gone over the bonus gifts, then the amazing hug, but that was it. Suddenly, her mind caught on the moment that he had leaned in and back out. He did that all the time trying to tell her something he didn’t want Dwight to hear or to check out her latest solitaire game. But she had noticed it, and perhaps, was it possible, he had taken back the card?
Her mind swirled at the very idea, what did that mean? What was in that card that he wanted to take back?
Pam placed her hands flat on her desk, enjoying the cool feeling of the desk surface on her fingertips as her face began to burn hot with fear and confusion… and excitement. There was something important in that card, and she had to know what it was.