- Text Size +
Author's Chapter Notes:
I wrote this awhile back and finally got the courage to post it here, amidst all the amazing stories archived on this site. Hope it measures up!

Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
Pam Beesly spent a lot of time comparing things, evaluating benefits vs. costs, need vs. want, and good vs. bad. She’d always been the cautious sort, preferring staid, safe colors to vibrant hues, FreeCell to Spider Solitaire, mixed berries to mocha. She voluntary kept her hair its vaguely mousy (or vaguely golden, depending on her mood), dark blonde color, even though she had strong suspicions that a rich chocolate shade would look great with her eyes.

She was wary of the unknown and the different. Her white Keds, while outdated and unfashionable (no matter how many Mischa Barton ads depicted them differently), were comfortable and trustworthy. When she wore out a pair, she always knew where she could purchase its replacement.

Which was what she’d been doing at Viewmont Mall. It was a typical mid-winter Sunday in Scranton: nothing else to do, so people gravitated towards the mall. Moms pushing strollers, teenage girls in belly-baring tops (in the winter? she wondered), bored-looking boyfriends aimlessly wandering through the aisles, waiting for their girlfriends… She remembered how, when she had first started dating Roy, he would offer to come shopping with her. She’d loved having a strong man to carry her purchases around and admire the clothes she tried on. Today, Roy was admiring his brother’s new Xbox. He didn’t come shopping with her anymore. He sometimes even had the gall to ask her to buy him a pair of jeans or a CD ‘since she was going out anyway’. She didn’t mind, really. She just wished he’d come with her sometimes.

Her mind drifted to the time Jim more of less invited her to the outlet mall with him, and she wondered what kind of shopper he was. He was not one for flashy gadgets or expensive clothes, but he did appreciate good music and his shirts always looked new. He probably went straight to The Gap for a crisp button-down, the rewarded himself with a new album before heading to the food court.

No! Pam berated herself mentally. Sure, she needed shoes, but the true reason for her outing was to get away from within her four walls and the thoughts of Jim that kept popping up in her mind. Ever since Friday, when he’d admitted his long-ago crush on her, she couldn’t get him out of her head. She’d needed a distraction, so here she was, indulging her inner consumer and contributing to the nation’s economy, when she really should be saving up for a wedding dress. All in an effort not to think of Jim, a feat at which she was failing miserably.

Lost in though, she almost didn’t see it until she was halfway past the store window. She backtracked quickly and admired it through the glass, a wistful smile upon her face and a gleam in her eye.

‘It’ was a shirt. Beautifully cut, with three-quarter length sleeves and a tapered waist, it was nonetheless nothing special, unless one considered the color. It was a deep raspberry pink, a shade she loved but would never wear to the office. It would look terrific with her favorite black skirt and would liven up the drab olive-green wraparound she almost never wore, but it would probably draw too much attention. Angela would probably call the shirt slutty (to her face!) and she was well past the point of restraint with Little Miss Priss. Dangerous territory.

However… maybe Roy would like it. He never noticed what she wore anymore. He used to compliment her on her legs, and said she should always wear skirts. It certainly wouldn’t hurt to wear something a little flashier than usual. She could even get a matching lipstick!

Her decision made, Pam marched into the store, determined to try the garment on. Not wasting any time, she made a beeline for the nearest sales associate and asked for a small. She was then shown to a changing room, where she whipped off her turtleneck and shrugged on the shirt with her back to the mirror. She didn’t want to look until she could get the full effect. As she pushed the last button through its hole, she took a deep breath and turned around.

It looked… good. No, it looked great, she decided. Despite her salt-damaged winter boots, comfortably worn jean skirt and the unforgivable fluorescent lighting, the shirt brought out her gold-tipped curls and accentuated her small waist. She turned around and craned her head to check if it was long enough in the back, but couldn’t get a good look. She’d noticed a three-way mirror outside the cabin, so she pushed the curtain aside and stepped out into the store.

The light was slightly more forgiving outside the cabin, and she realized for the first time since spotting the shirt that she’d once seen Katy wearing a top in exactly the same color. It had been lower-cut, and she’d worn it with a cute pale-pink cardigan, but it was basically the same deep pink. As she twirled in front of the mirror to get the full effect, she idly wondered if Jim had liked the color. It was an ambitious choice for a redhead, but Katy had pulled it off… No! No more Jim thoughts.

Okay, decision time. To buy, or not to buy? Pam stepped back into the cabin to change back into her turtleneck and glanced at the price tag: $49.95. Not bad. A little more expensive than the shirts she normally bought, but not so much that she’d regret it if she only wore it once or twice. However… would she wear it more than once or twice? She’d give it a try at the office, but then she’d have nowhere else to show it off. Roy and her didn’t go out very much anymore.

Torn, Pam guiltily indulged her ‘forbidden Jim thoughts’ and asked herself the question she’d started using a couple of months ago to gauge purchases she was unsure about: what would Jim think?

She hated herself for substituting Jim’s name for Roy’s in that question, but even her imaginary Roy had stopped paying attention to her lately. Jim was her closest guy friend, no matter what; it was only natural that she should turn to him for validation, right? Right.

“Wow, that color looks great on you!” was probably what he’d say. He was such a gentleman, always ready with the compliments and a kind word. Unlike Roy, at least lately…

No! Pam pushed her disloyal thoughts aside and made a decision. She grabbed her purse off the hook in the cabin and pulled out her credit card. She deserved a treat, if for no other reason than she’d spent a good part of the last week rating the content of Michael’s various joke books from ‘moderately funny’ to ‘coronary inducing’. Ugh.

She paid for her shirt (her new favorite one, she decided) and stepped out into the bustle of the mall concourse. Finished with her purchases, she headed off in the direction of the exit where she’d parked her car.

“Pam! Hey, Pam, over here!”

Startled, she whirled around. She could feel a blush rise in her cheeks. “Jim! Hi, um, what are you doing here?” she asked, flustered. She made her way over to the bench where he was sitting.

“Oh, just checking if the new spring lines are in. You know me: fashion-forward, and all… Seriously, it’s Sunday and I’m in Scranton. Where else would I be?” He cocked an eyebrow at her, obviously waiting for a response.

Pam shuffled her feet nervously. She’d just been thinking of him, and there he was. Freaky. “No, I mean you don’t really seem like a mall guy.”

“Oh, I can be a mall guy,” he replied, staring up at her with a smile. “If the right girl asks me to be.” Jim’s eyes clouded over and he averted his gaze as he realized what he’d just said. “Um, I mean, I’m actually here with my mom…her car’s in the shop, she needed a ride, I owed her a favor, so…”

“Wow, that’s very…chivalrous of you, I guess…” she trailed off. She felt awkward standing while he was lounging on the bench, but she didn’t want to sit down. Then she’d have to stay and chat, and suddenly she wanted nothing more than to be in her car driving away from the mall. “Well, it was nice - ”

Jim suddenly sat up straight. “There she is, I gotta go. See you tomorrow, ‘kay? Bye!” And with that, he was gone.

Pam turned to follow him with her eyes. When he reached his mom, he grabbed her bags, and she threaded her arm through his. He must have said something funny then, because she looked up at him and laughed. And then they rounded a corner and were out of her sight.

Dejected, Pam made her way to the exit. Her pink-shirt-buying high was gone, replaced by a weird sadness, one that made her want to crawl into her bed with a pint of ice cream, preferably chocolate flavored. It was quasi-easy to push Jim-thoughts aside when she didn’t have to see him, but running into him at the mall, and getting a glimpse of another aspect of his life outside the office, brought her dilemma front and center.

What was she going to do? She’d kind of suspected his crush on her. Whether it was due to keen perception or wishful thinking, she would probably never know. She had chosen to ignore it, because she didn’t want to give him any false hope. She was engaged to Roy, and they were finally going to be married in a couple of months.

Nonetheless, Pam thought as she searched the parking lot for her car, it felt good to be wanted by someone other than her fiancé, especially by someone as desirable as Jim. He was cute, friendly, funny and caring. Her made her laugh and was wonderful at alleviating her boredom at the office. He really was like a brother, she tried to convince herself as she spotted her car parked between two minivans. He was always there for her whenever she needed to be cheered up, he protected her from the Dwights and Michaels of this world, and he never made her feel as though she owed him anything.

But on the other hand, there was Roy. Her soon-to-be better half, her betrothed, her man. They’d been together awhile now, and engaged for more than 3 years. 3 years, she thought as she unlocked her car door and carelessly tossed her bags in the back seat. Part of her was outraged that she’d let the engagement go on for so long. She should’ve put her foot down a long time ago and set the date herself. But she didn’t want to upset Roy. If he wasn’t ready, there was no point in pushing the issue, right? It was just that she’d gotten so tired of the jokes at work, and of explaining to her friends that they’d be the first to know when a date had been set… It was frustrating, really. Good thing the waiting was over.

She turned her key in the ignition and put the car in gear. After looking left and right to make sure she wouldn’t roll over an innocent pedestrian, she pulled out her space and made her way towards the exit. Out of the corner of her eye, she caught sight of a truck that looked oddly familiar pulling into the lot.

“No, it couldn’t be,” she whispered to herself. She slowed her car to a crawl to get a better look, paying no mind to the honks of the car behind her. She just had to be sure…

It was Roy, all right. With his brother, by the looks of the lump riding shotgun. But he hated the mall! Pam jammed her foot on the accelerator and furiously peeled out of the parking lot.

The nerve! She had all but begged him not three hours ago to spend some time with her, to come help her pick out her shoes. She thought maybe they could catch a movie after, get some dinner, and have a relaxing evening before heading back to work for another five days of mind-numbing boredom. But he’d declined, saying he hadn’t seen his brother since Christmas.

What she barely admitted to herself was that she’d also wanted him to serve as a distraction, to get her mind off the whole Jim situation. Roy would go ballistic if he found out what had transpired Friday at the office. He was wary of Jim on principle, and got all weird whenever he caught them hanging out together.

Jim would have come with me – he would have been glad to, she thought. If it weren’t for the current situation, she might have asked him. He was fun to hang out with, he laughed at her jokes, and he made her feel young and pretty and desirable. He was like her new pink shirt. He just made her feel good.

But Roy made her feel safe. She felt protected when she was with Roy. Nothing bad could happen. When he took her in his arms, she felt small and relieved and unburdened by life and all its unfairness. Roy would take care of her. His occasional distractedness was a small price to pay for that feeling.

But…what about Jim?

Not for the first time since Friday, Pam allowed herself to wonder what could’ve been between her and Jim. She could picture nights spent curled up at his place in front of the TV, mocking reality shows and eating popcorn before heading up to bed. She could imagine nights out with friends. She could picture waking up late next to him on Sunday mornings and staying in bed until noon, talking about everything and nothing and dreaming up plans to torture Dwight in the coming days. She could see his face staring down at her as he leaned in to kiss her before pressing his body against hers and driving her wild.

The only problem was that she could also see the look on his face when he told her that it wasn’t working out, that she wasn’t enough for him, that for him the fantasy had been ten times better than the reality.

And that led her back to Roy. Because Roy was safety. He was reliable and there.

And that had to be enough for her.

Luna Mystik is the author of 1 other stories.

You must login (register) to review or leave jellybeans