Scenario #1 (Pam’s POV): Coffee
This was it. She was about to ask Jim Halpert on a date. Pam’s heart was pounding as she saw him enter the break room by himself.
Well, not exactly a date, per se. She didn’t want to put too much pressure on him on his first day back at Dunder-Mifflin Scranton. So she had decided that she would keep it low-key. Ask him out for coffee tonight. Work up her courage. And on their coffee date, if things went well, she’d ask him out for real (or maybe he’d make it easy on her and ask her out instead). Despite how hurt she had been that Jim had up and left her after the casino night last May, she couldn’t help but get her hopes up. The last time they had seen each other, they shared a kiss that was so hot it prompted her to cancel her wedding to her fiancé of several years. And now she was single and Jim was back, and they could pick up where they left off.
She walked into the break room, watching Jim punch a foreign letter-number combination into the vending machine, where he reached in and retrieved a beverage decidedly different from grape soda.
“Hey,” she smiled at him as she approached.
“What happened to grape soda?” Yes, tease him, that’s a good way to get the ball rolling, she thought to herself.
“Oh, yeah, I’m trying to move away from that. Getting into more of a bottled water phase,” he replied with a little smile.
“Ohhhh, you’ve changed so much.” It was true. He did seem different. And, if she was being honest with herself, he was acting a little cooler towards her.
“Well, I’m evolving, Pam.”
She laughed nervously. What in the hell was she supposed to make of that comment? Still, she barreled forward, undeterred- she’d chicken out if she didn’t ask him right away. “So when do I get to hear everything? Are you… still getting unpacked or… you wanna grab a coffee or something after work?” There. She had spit it out. Nothing to do now but wait nervously for his reply.
“Oh, um, tonight, actually, no. I’m um, just still getting settled, so-”
“Oh, yeah, no, you know, whenever.” Things were unraveling by the second. She should have taken the hint when he said that he was evolving. Evolving away from her, he must have meant.
“Oooohkay. Sorry to interrupt, I-,” Michael broke in. She wasn’t sure if she’d ever been so relieved to hear Michael Scott’s voice in her entire life.
“Nope. You’re not interrupting anything…..nope I’m-,” Jim tried to explain to him.
And….there was another dagger through Pam’s heart. Jim telling Michael there was nothing to interrupt? She was only asking him out on a date. Or for coffee. Whatever.
She slumped down as Jim and Michael made awkward, one-word exchanges. Then Jim turned to her.
“All right….I should probably get back to work. Right, for work,” he mumbled.
“Yeah, no, me too,” she faked a smile as best she could.
“All right,” he turned and walked away, leaving her alone. Eyes starting to brim with tears, she did her best to clamp down on them, especially since she knew the documentary cameras would likely be zoomed in directly on her.
The day just continued to suck worse and worse with each passing hour. First she had to deal with the tenseness of the conference room as Tony got humiliated, then fired. Then she had to see Karen and Jim and their joking around as they left the building to check on their cars. The nail in the coffin was watching Karen put her hands all over him, her Jim (well, at least the Jim that she wanted). They were dating; Pam was sure of it.
To top it all off, even Vance of Vance Refrigeration didn’t save the day; one of her tire sidewalls was weak and when he went to pump Pam’s tires back up it had ruptured. She knew how to change a tire and that she had a spare, but the sun set early this time of year and the parking lot wasn’t very well lit at night, so she wasn’t looking forward to fumbling around in the dark. She should have thought to make Michael change her tire since he had gotten her into this whole mess, or simply run down and asked Vance to stay longer. But she’d been so tongue-tied after seeing Karen and Jim together that way that she’d slinked back to reception, shocked, and stayed there. She continued to avoid human contact as much as possible for the rest of the day, deciding she’d rather change the tire herself than have to converse with anyone else.
Finally, work was over and Pam made her way to her car. She had just retrieved a flashlight and was inspecting the damage to her tire when she saw Jim approach her out of the corner of her eye.
“Hey, do you need some help?” he asked her, sounding concerned.
Pam shrugged. She’d had such a lousy afternoon that all hope that she’d had at the beginning of the day had pretty much disappeared in a puff of smoke. Still, she and Jim were alone, and he was offering to help her. That was something, she supposed. “If you’d be willing to hold the flashlight for me while I change this, I’d appreciate it,” she said casually, gesturing to the spare she had just fetched from her trunk.
Jim smiled. “Wow, that’s a real boost to my masculinity, Beesly,” he teased her. “Though, sadly to say, you can probably change a tire just as fast- or faster- than I can.”
Pam laughed, but she felt tense. She didn’t know why- there was no way in hell she was going to ask him out on a date now- but being alone in the dark with Jim unnerved her.
Jim did an excellent job holding the flashlight right where she needed, and he also did the heaviest lifting, pumping up the jack and moving her tire into her trunk. Together, they completed the task in just a few minutes. Pam sighed with relief- at least there was one less thing to worry about. She was going to have words with Michael tomorrow regarding his little team-building exercise, that was for sure.
Jim glanced at his watch, then spoke up. “Hey, I have plans in a little while, but I’m free for the next half hour or so, if you still want to get coffee…,” he let the invitation dangle in the air between them.
Pam had a decision to make. Jim was seeing someone else, and she hadn’t really had time to come to grips with it yet. Should she decline? But when she looked at Jim more closely, at his kind eyes juxtaposed with his wry, sarcastic smile, she realized that she really, really missed him. And not just the memory of him kissing her breathless, either. She missed Jim Halpert as her best friend, guard up or not.
And Lord knows that Jim settled for being friends with her even though he made it quite clear on casino night that he had wanted something more. Now it was her turn.
“Sure,” she said, faking a bright smile.
Jim glanced at her spare tire. “I’ll drive,” he said.
She got into his car and he drove them to the nearest Starbucks. She hadn’t really meant coffee, literally; at this time of night she’d prefer not to have the extra caffeine. She really just wanted someplace where they could be alone and talk. Wanted being the operative word- because she had no clue what they would talk about now. If Jim wanted to center their conversation around Karen Filippelli, she might scream.
Pam ordered a Chai tea latte; Jim got a black coffee. She got out her wallet, but Jim brushed it away with a wave of his hand, and Pam’s heart broke just a little bit more. He’s paying for me, and we’re not even dating. The sweetness of his gesture quickly faded, though, in light of a realization that just dawned on her. I’ll bet he agreed to take me here specifically so that he could tell me he’s with Karen now. So she was getting a pity drink. Or a guilt drink. And he didn’t know it, but a consolation drink. Not that it would help- unless perhaps it had three or more shots of alcohol. But they were at Starbucks, so no such luck.
Sure enough, after a few minutes of small talk he dropped those dreaded words.
I just feel bad, I feel like things were a little weird today, or something. I just think- I should tell you that I’ve sort of started seeing someone, and, uh-
At least Pam was prepared for it. She’d had time to get her defenses up. So that instead of crying, or being too shocked to say anything, she replied that he could do whatever he wanted, that they would always be friends, that it was good to have him back. And it was all true.
After she said it, for a while all they could do was sip their drinks in silence.
What were they going to do now? Pam was still reeling from the events of today. But then it occurred to her that she should do what she does best – denial. Just try and pretend that nothing weird ever happened between them at all. We’re friends- she’d just told him that; she needed to act like it, no matter how much her heart might not have been in it. So she changed the subject in an attempt to loosen their conversation. Michael’s antics at work today were an easy target, so she made a witty remark about the Integration Celebration, to which Jim chuckled authentically. There. Hopefully that will lighten the mood, she thought.
She began asking him questions about Stamford, what it was like there. Jim, finally seeming to let his guard down a bit, began regaling her with tales of the more interesting things that had happened since they’d last talked; his brief stint biking to work, Josh playing Dunder-Mifflin and selling out to Staples, the R.I.P. Stamford hats that Andy Bernard had made.
Pam talked, too, telling Jim about what he’d missed over at Scranton. She’d seen firsthand a couple of the “future Dwight” faxes and thoroughly enjoyed watching Dwight read them. She brought up the frenetic responses of everyone in Scranton to rumors of the branch closing- Michael and Dwight’s attempt to confront David Wallace at his house, Creed selling off Dunder-Mifflin property for quick cash, Meredith’s sex pact.
For a few precious minutes, at least, it felt like things were almost back to normal- or at least as normal as they could be post-casino-night. Filling him in about Diwali and about Michael’s outrageous marriage proposal to Carol in a cheerleading outfit reminded Pam that she’d never heard back from Jim after texting him that night. Pre-casino-night Jim would never have ignored her like that. Still, their talking just now began to remind her her of their most recent (and amazing) phone conversation as she was telling him about her “28 Days Later” snafu.
Until eventually they both ran out of particularly amusing stories to tell each other from the last few weeks and yet another silence came over them.
Finally, Jim broke it. “So- do you like her?”
No need for him to elaborate on who ‘her’ was, of course.
Jim was seeking her genuine approval- he had an earnest look in his eyes. And they were friends, always would be friends- she had just told him so. So now Pam was stuck. She didn’t know Karen very well, obviously, but she’d seen enough to at least get a first impression.
I like her. I like you. I love you. I’m in love with you, actually.
She spoke carefully. “So far, I do. She seemed really nice.” She thought of the sweet compliment Karen had paid her at the beginning of the workday, about her favorite sweater, hand-knit from her mom. It was providing her with some much-needed comfort at the moment, like a hug from home. She pulled the edges of the sleeves over her hands.
Jim gave her an awkward smile. “Good.” He said.
Good. Who knew that one little word could feel so crappy. Pam faked another smile. She was glad the day was almost over, because she’d been faking them all day, and it was exhausting.
Jim stood up from their table. “I’m actually going to go meet Karen now. So we should probably get going.”
Pam nodded stiffly and stood up from their table. They threw their coffee cups in the trash and Pam felt her heart break a little more as Jim held the door open for her on the way out of Starbucks. Though when she got to the door of his car, she was on her own.
It was a quick drive back to the office- just a few minutes. Jim pulled up to her Yaris, now with the spare tire attached. He didn’t put his car in park.
“Well, I’m glad we had this little talk. See ya tomorrow at the office, Beesly,” he said, flashing her a smile as he reached for his cell phone.
“Yeah, me too, see ya,” she tried to sound as casual as possible, taking the hint to open the car door and begin to get out without further dialogue. But Jim must have hit send right away, because a few moments later, before Pam was able to shut the car door, she was treated to hearing Jim say “He-ey, where you at, Filippelli?” to Karen in one of those soft Jim drawls. The voice that he usually reserved for her.
She quickly slammed the door so that she wouldn’t have to hear anymore. As soon as Jim pulled away, the tears started flowing and they just wouldn’t stop.