“Where are you taking me?” Pam’s voice was amused, rather than frightened. She trusted him.
“Hold on, just a little further,” Jim replied, pushing slightly on her shoulders to position her just so. He quickly got into his own position and said, “Now!”
Pam removed her blindfold and said, “Here? Why?”
“You don’t remember what happened here?”
“A lot of things happened here.”
“Let me take you back, to ten years ago today…”
“I traded with Dwight…just, I figured you went to a lot of trouble, and it means a lot.
“Also, Roy got me an iPod, or was going to get me an iPod, so…”
“Well, either way.” Jim looked down at Pam adoringly, knowing, and not caring, that his heart was currently in his eyes. “This is an amazing gift, because it comes with…bonus gifts.”
Off Pam’s confused look, he pointed and added, “Look inside.”
As she squealed over his yearbook picture, Jim reached down into the box and pulled out his card. When she mentioned Roy like that, he suddenly didn’t want to tell her how he felt. No, that was wrong, he wanted to, but he was afraid. If she rejected him, what would happen to their easy friendship? He couldn’t handle losing that. Maybe another time.
Suddenly he had second thoughts—well, third thoughts, if removing the card was a second thought, but who was counting?—if he never told her, he’d never have a chance. He couldn’t expect her to make the first move, with Roy in the picture.
“What are you doing?”
He hadn’t noticed that he’d frozen with the card in his hand, hovering in midair. He made a split-second decision.
“Um, your card. It must have fallen out.” He handed it to her with a silent prayer in his heart. “But, I have to warn you, the contents are very sensitive, so please only open it when you’re alone.”
Laughing, Pam reached for the envelope, but Jim wouldn’t let it go. “No, seriously, Agent Beesly, I can’t let you have this till I know you’ll open it only when you are completely alone in a secure location.”
“Okay, okay, James Bond, I promise,” she giggled and yanked it from his hands. She tucked it carefully back in the box, and turned back to the teapot. “Is that the Boggle timer?”
The night before the party, Pam had been over at Jim’s house, the two of them making his mom’s recipe for homemade salsa. Michael had already used up the party budget for the year (in May), and so the Christmas party was going to be potluck.
“Now, Beesly, you have to swear secrecy on this recipe. It’s a great honor that you, although not a member of the Halpert family, are being allowed to witness, nay, to help with, preparation of the Halpert Salsa.”
“I thought you said this was your mom’s family recipe.”
“Well, then, wouldn’t it be the Sanders Salsa?”
“Picky, picky. Well, the secrets to this salsa lie in the fresh ingredients, but I’ve already picked those out, so you don’t need to worry about that…” Jim went on to explain that, basically, the Salsa Helper chopped up stuff. A lot of stuff. Pam didn’t seem to mind, though, and got right to work.
Jim smiled at her, then started chopping tomatoes. Pam was doing onions, because Jim had mentioned that they made him cry, and for some reason they had no effect on her. “Wouldn’t want to taint your manly image, would we, Halpert?”
The party a few weeks ago had been the first time Pam was over at Jim’s for any length of time (hence the tour), but since then, she had been over a few more times, and seemed to be pretty comfortable around the house. Jim certainly had no objection to this, and whenever he saw her doing things like lounging on his couch or chopping vegetables in his kitchen, he had to remind himself that she didn’t really belong there.
Because she looked like she did.
They chopped for a while in a comfortable silence; Jim was trying not to think about what it would be like if Pam was living there, if he had had no need to warn her about the Halpert family secrets because she was a Halpert…he was less than successful.
To break the silence, he asked, “Did I ever tell you about the last time you were sick, and Dwight followed me around reciting zebra facts?”
Pam grinned. “No! Do I want to know why?”
“Probably not, but I’m gonna tell ya. ‘It is well-known, Jim, that intelligence is an aphrodisiac, since mates with brains are more likely to raise children to adulthood. So I’ve started to memorize facts about a different subject every day. Did you know that a zebra’s stripes are as distinctive as a human’s fingerprint?’”
“Stop, stop!” Pam was laughing out loud.
“‘The Ancient Romans called zebras “hippotigris”.’ I can feel myself getting sexier.”
“He did not say that.”
“No, that was me.”
Suddenly Pam’s laughs dissolved into a short cry of pain. Jim was at her side in less than a second, looking for injuries. “Don’t worry, it’s just a little cut.” But Jim was already examining her finger, grabbing a paper towel, and carefully cleaning out the cut.
“Well, it’s a good thing you weren’t chopping the tomatoes,” he said ruefully, nodding at the small drop of blood on the cutting board. “We would have had to throw the whole batch out.”
Pam pretended indignation. “What? You don’t care about my finger, do you? Just your precious salsa?”
“Well, it is a family recipe…” Pam made an angry noise and narrowed her eyes at him. Jim clutched her hand dramatically and kissed her finger. “I care deeply about your silly little cut. Let me find a remedy.” And he hurried to the bathroom to find a band-aid.
He thought about how pathetic it was that he could still feel his lips tingle from where they’d touched her finger.
On the way back to the kitchen, he had an idea, and grabbed some things from the hall closet, sticking them in his back pocket. He knew they would make her laugh, so how could he resist?
When he reached Pam, he crouched in front of the chair she was sitting in, gently took her hand in his, and placed the band-aid carefully on her cut. “Now, Beesly, if you can’t keep from cutting yourself, I’m going to have to give your job to someone else.”
Skeptically, Pam asked, “Oh, yeah? Who?”
“Well, I’ll call Dwight, of course.”
“Yeah, I’d like to see him swear secrecy on a family recipe.”
Jim pretended that this thought had never occurred to him. “You’re right. Well, I’ll just have to put up with you, I guess. But I’m going to have to insist on some safety precautions—can’t have blood in the salsa.”
“Oh, and what precautions are these?”
“Well, it’s really just one. You need to wear these.” With a perfectly straight face, Jim produced his roommate’s leather work gloves from his back pocket.
Pam immediately started laughing. “I’m serious, here, Beesly—you need to wear these, because I can’t have you cutting fingers off and ruining the salsa.”
She stared at him derisively. “If you think that those filthy gloves are better than the possibility of a drop of my blood…it’s not like I have hepatitis or anything.”
“What? This is just good, clean…engine grease,” Jim insisted as he put the gloves on her hands.
“You’re crazy,” Pam protested.
“Probably, but you love me anyway.” He paused for a second, realizing what he had just said out loud.
Pam, on the other hand, didn’t pause for a second. “Yeah, I do,” she replied, her newly-gloved hand trailing down the side of his face. She looked at him tenderly, a gentle smile on her face. Jim held his breath, not believing that this moment was real. He was ready to lean forward and touch her lips to his own, because she really didn’t look as though she’d push him away, when she suddenly dropped her hand. “I even like you with engine grease on the side of your face,” she grinned.
She was obviously trying to change the subject, so he let her, the way he always let her do that. Besides, he had great hopes for the Christmas card he was going to write later tonight.
After entrusting Pam with the card, Jim couldn’t concentrate on anything else, so he left and got a drink “to distract himself”. At least, that’s what he told himself. In his heart of hearts, he knew the reason was more like “liquid courage”. Not that he thought she’d read it at work…would she?
He returned to the main room of the office, and quickly scanned it—no Pam. He ran into the break room, the kitchen, even back by Toby’s desk…no Pam. Roy was in the middle of the crowd, doing shots of something or other, and he didn’t look upset, so Jim was pretty sure that Pam hadn’t left without him.
Suddenly, Pam burst out of the women’s bathroom and into the main room with a determined look on her face. She headed straight for Jim and grabbed his sleeve, pulling him with her toward the office door and the elevators.
Dwight, who had been standing near Jim, started to ask what was happening, but Pam talked right over him. “Hey, Dwight, there’s an overflowing toilet in the ladies’ room. I think you should do something about it.”
“Question: does it involve sanitary napkins?”
Pam (rightly, Jim thought) ignored Dwight’s query, and continued on her way out the door, still pulling Jim behind her. Roy appeared not to notice anything out of the ordinary.
When they were alone in the hallway, Jim asked, “Is there really a toilet overflowing in the restroom?”
“Would I lie?” Pam asked innocently. “Don’t answer that. Yes, there is an overflowing toilet. I may have put an unreasonable amount of toilet paper into one of the toilets in order to make this happen…”
“Nice,” Jim complimented her, grinning.
“This has a purpose you know, besides annoying Dwight.” She paused, and seemed to be gathering her thoughts before speaking. “You know that—”
Pam took a deep breath and started over, reading from the paper in front of her. “Pam: You know that I think the world of you. What you might not know is that you are my world. I kept these silly little knick-knacks because they remind me of you, and I can’t go a day, even an hour, without thinking of you. I’m in love with you. I know this isn’t the most appropriate thing to say to someone who’s engaged, but I had to let you know. Merry Christmas, Jim.”
She stopped and stared at him. He couldn’t meet her eyes, his face red. He hadn’t realized how sappy it sounded as he wrote it. “Jim? What do you expect me to do with that? Huh? I mean, I’m engaged!”
Jim thought, I know that Pam, believe me, but his mouth still seemed to be on vacation, and he still couldn’t look up at her.
“I mean, I’m not gonna pretend I haven’t thought about it, but I’m with Roy. I’ve been with Roy forever! I can’t just—” She stopped, and Jim chanced a small peek at her.
She was staring at him with something warm in her eyes. He grew a little bolder, and held her gaze.
“I’m going to kiss you now,” Pam announced.
Jim had no objection.
Their mouths met, and it was like every tired cliché in a romance novel, only better, because it was happening to them. Jim couldn’t think past the fact that Pam was kissing him. That she had actually started it. That she wasn’t pulling away, but was in fact drawing him closer.
There was an inevitable showdown with Roy and several important decisions were made that night, with many more to come in the days and nights to follow, but every time Jim got discouraged, or started to feel guilty about stealing Roy’s girl, he glanced at the drawing Pam had made for his Christmas present.
There were about twenty zebras in the picture, each with its own distinctive stripe pattern, but the focus was on two standing side by side. Their stripes matched perfectly, and they were labeled “Jim” and “Pam”.
“Okay, so I see why you wanted to come here. But…is that it? I mean, is it just, ‘Hi, we’re here, let’s leave’?”
“Of course not. Open this.” Jim handed her a small cardboard box, like costume jewelry is sold in. She did as directed, and found a folded-up piece of paper. She smoothed it out to find her zebra drawing, and in the center, a ring.
“Oh, Jim, you shouldn’t have,” Pam protested, even as she slipped the ring on, noting how it had obviously been made to match the wedding ring already present on her finger.
She laughed. “I don’t know why not. It’s just what you say when someone buys you something expensive.”
“So you like it?”
“Yes, darling.” She kissed him in reward, obviously meaning for it to be a short kiss, but Jim wouldn’t let her get away with that and deepened the kiss. She didn’t fight very hard.
“Happy anniversary, Pam,” Jim breathed into her mouth between kisses. He kissed down her neck, causing her to draw him closer, propping herself up on the desk. Jim came around to her side and pulled her tight against him, nibbling on her ear.
“I say we have a little private celebration.”
“That sounds—oh!—marvelous,” she gasped. When he didn’t move, she pushed him gently away and got down off the desk.
Jim’s reaction was less than enthusiastic. “I was kind of hoping that we could stay here.”
“It was one of my favorite fantasies in days gone by.”
Pam hopped up on the desk again and pulled him toward her, proceeding to kiss him thoroughly, covering his face with little kisses.
When she reached his ear, she whispered, “Me, too.”