Pamela Morgan Beesly was tired.
Not tired in the way she normally was after a long week of work, or after her lazy fiancé had decided that the kitchen really needed to be cleaned but not actually lifted a finger to help her achieve that goal, but tired in a deeper, more aggressive way. If she normally felt her exhaustion in her bones and muscles, now she felt it in her soul: the very idea of movement was enervating, and the thought of talking to another human being was distressing.
It was unfortunate, then, that she was currently occupying a prime piece of real estate on the Beesly-Anderson couch, right in front of the TV, and that today was a Saturday, which meant Roy was up early (for him) to watch whatever sports channel happened to have something on.
This meant that Roy was currently nudging her awake, and she was going to have to move and interact with at least one human (him) in the immediate future.
To give him credit, Roy wasn’t actually trying to wake her. He was simply shifting her to the side so that he could sit in the spot on the couch he’d carved out with his butt cheeks over the last few years, the particular place where you could reach out and put a beer on the side table and a sandwich on the coffee table without having to get up, and where he kept the remotes and the controller for his Playstation. This was Roy’s morning routine on Saturdays—she could only vaguely remember when TV and beer had been Gatorade and a trip to the Y—and the mere fact that Pam was lying across the couch wasn’t going to stop him.
As she fluttered into consciousness—and why, if she’d been sleeping, was she so damn tired?—recollection trickled back into her brain. She was lying on the couch because when she’d come home last night she hadn’t wanted to wake Roy. She’d come back so late because she’d been crying—that was probably part of why she was tired, because she hadn’t just been crying, she’d been sobbing like her heart was going to break. Now, why had her heart been going to break?
Oh right. Last night had been the Casino Night at the warehouse at work. Which meant, she realized slowly, that it was only last night that Jim Halpert had told her he loved her, told her he was sorry for misinterpreting their friendship, cried in front of her, and then (after a phone call with her mother that she only vaguely remembered) kissed her silly. Silly enough to tell him she was marrying Roy. Silly enough to sit there dazed as he slipped his hands out of hers and walked out of the room. Silly enough to slump down in his chair and begin the weeping that didn’t stop until it was far too late to get a ride from anyone else and she’d had to call a cab home.
At which point she had fallen asleep on the couch. Where she still was.
She sat bolt upright as it hit her. She’d been crying so much last night not because Jim loved her or kissed her but because she loved him...and kissed him, she realized, as the recollection grew stronger and she remembered not only not pulling away but running her hands through the hair that curled so enticingly at the back of his head.
Sitting bolt upright, unfortunately, had the troubling effect of slamming her head right into Roy’s jaw as he bent over to move her a few more inches to the left. There was a vague ringing in her ears and she heard him curse. She pulled herself into a ball on the couch—still wearing the dress from last night, she noticed as she curled her feet underneath herself—and rubbed her head until he got himself enough under control to talk recognizable words.
“What the hell, Pammy?”
“Sorry. I didn’t realize you were there.”
“You should have.”
And that, she thought, was their relationship in a nutshell. Somehow she, who had been asleep all of a minute ago, was supposed to be carefully aware of where he was and what he was doing while he, who was self-evidently fully awake and alert and actively manhandling her sleeping body (albeit not in a necessarily creepy or inappropriate way) was absolved from all responsibility for waking her up, or paying attention to her.
How different it was from Jim’s careful consideration of where she was and what she was doing at all times.
She knew she shouldn’t compare—or rather, that she’d been telling herself for months that she shouldn’t compare. But why not? Before, the “why not” had been because she was in a relationship with Roy—engaged to Roy—and Jim was just a coworker, so naturally it was easier for him to be kind and considerate, because he only had to deal with her part of the time, and because his feelings weren’t actually engaged so things didn’t matter as much. Now she realized that that was stupid. It should be easier for Roy to be considerate, not harder, if he loved her. They should be comfortable together, not in the sense that he no longer had to pay attention to her but in the sense that kindness and consideration should come naturally by now. And he didn’t actually spend more time with Pam than Jim did, not if you didn’t count time asleep and unconscious. So what the hell was his problem?
And besides, Jim did love her.
That thought instantly reduced the pain in her head—or at least her sensation of that pain—and she found herself smiling.
“What the hell are you smiling about? Is this funny to you?”
Of course Roy thought this had something to do with him. She supposed it did, if not in the way he thought. And honestly, it was funny, if not in a ha-ha way, that she was sitting here daydreaming about another man while her fiancé was yelling at her about his jaw. It wasn’t the first time she’d daydreamed about Jim, of course, but it was the first time she’d realized that she didn’t just have to daydream. That Jim Halpert wanted her the same way that she (God help her) wanted him. That all the stories she’d told herself about how he couldn’t be interested in her, he dated women like Katy Moore, he was too charming, too handsome, too much to be interested in her were...false.
That all the stories she’d told herself about how she and Roy had a good thing, and it was the right thing, and it was everything to her, that she couldn’t possibly be with someone else (that no one else could really want her) were equally false.
That she could be with Jim.
She found herself answering Roy with words she’d kept bottled up for a long time.
“No, it’s not funny to me. But it’s also not my fault.”
“What? You slammed your head into me!”
“Because you woke me up! No, you didn’t even wake me up, you just moved me, like I was a sack of potatoes or a bag of groceries, not your fiancée! Because your stupid Saturday morning routine is more important to you than whether I slept well, or why I slept on the couch, or whether I want to be moved out of the way. God, you only think about yourself.”
He sighed. “I’m sorry, Pammy.”
Usually that would be the end of their arguments. It wasn’t that Roy never apologized—whatever their friends might think (and she had a sneaking suspicion she’d never quite vocalized that a number of their friends, or at least hers, didn’t think Roy ever apologized to her)—it was that he assumed a simple apology would be enough, and he never said what he was apologizing for. It was always “I’m sorry, Pammy” followed by no change. Well, not today.
“What are you sorry for, Roy?”
He stared at her. “What do you mean? I said I’m sorry, OK?”
“What are you sorry for though?”
“What the hell, Pammy? First you’re mad at me and now you won’t accept my apology?”
She stared at him. He really didn’t get it, did he? He had no idea what he was apologizing for, even though she’d just told him what was bothering her. Well, not everything; not that she was considering seriously the possibility of leaving him for another man. But enough that he ought to at least be able to formulate a coherent reason for an apology.
“I’m not going to accept your apology, Roy, until you tell me what you think you actually did wrong.”
He threw up his hands in frustration. “You tell me, babe, you tell me.” Even he seemed to realize that wasn’t going to cut it, because he pushed his hands through his hair (and why was it that when Jim did that she couldn’t help but want to stroke her hands through the same hair, but when Roy did it she had no such urge?) and sank into the couch—into his normal spot, she noticed. “I’m sorry I upset you.”
“Seriously?” That was the best he could do?
“I mean, yeah, babe, I don’t like it when you’re upset. I’m sorry, OK?” He gave her a look that screamed “can we just forget about it.” Or maybe just “I wanna watch the game.”
“No, Roy, it’s not OK.” She got up and went to the linen closet, bending down to where they kept the luggage. She wasn’t sure what had guided her steps there, but it seemed right; she needed space, and if Roy’s physically pushing her off the couch had indicated anything (and it certainly had indicated many things, or at least activated her realization of them in her brain) she couldn’t get that space here.
“What was that?” Apparently he hadn’t heard her as she walked away from him. A moment later the reason why became clear, as she heard the sounds of announcers or commentators or some kind of sports-related talking heads blare from the TV. He’d actually turned it on while she was telling him she didn’t accept his apology. And sadly, this was typical—well, it wasn’t typical that she actually didn’t accept an apology, but it was typical of him to assume she would.
She grabbed the duffel from the closet and headed upstairs, pausing on the bottom step to shout: “I said, it’s not OK.” Well, she didn’t really shout. But for her it was shouting, because she said it full voice, without holding back.
He didn’t follow her upstairs.
She packed the bag with patience, including pajamas, work clothes, shoes, toiletries, everything she could think of needing. It was a large duffel—they’d gotten it on sale off some website and not realized exactly how big it was, which is why it was sitting unused at the bottom of the closet—and it was becoming ungainly by the time she finished shoving clothes and things into it, but she was amazed to realize that she had everything. Well, not everything: there were some old T-shirts she hadn’t packed. But as she looked around, there wasn’t much else that was her in the bedroom. She lugged the duffel onto her back, scooped up the box that contained her mementoes (years of living together in the house, but they’d never actually made it from the shoebox she’d kept them in as a kid onto the walls and mantel) and stacked it with the larger box that contained her art supplies (shoved under the bed at Roy’s insistence). Then she turned and walked out of the bedroom and back downstairs.
Roy was still watching TV.
She made it all the way to the doorway before he turned his head and finally reacted to her presence—or rather, her incipient absence.
“Where do you think you’re going?”
She unlocked the door and deposited her load on the porch before answering. “Out.”
“Come on, Pammy, this is no time for games. Where are you going with all that crap?” Of course Roy would find the time to call all her worldly possessions crap.
“I’m not sure.” And she wasn’t. But she knew she wasn’t going to stay there. On the one hand it felt like divine revelation, like clouds of fire by night and smoke by day, like tablets at Sinai and an empty tomb on Easter Sunday. On the other, it was just the natural order of things: waking up one day and discovering your parents are aging, or your little sister is a woman now, and forgetting to be surprised by the news because today is not actually any different from yesterday; you’ve just noticed it now. Because there were a lot of reasons to leave Roy Anderson, and while it had taken a thunderbolt of a declaration and a lightning flash of a kiss to make her see them, they’d been there waiting for her all along. Well, not all along: for all that their first date story was an epic disaster, it was unfair to Roy and to their relationship to pretend that it had been doomed from the beginning. But it would have been equally unfair to her, to him, to them to pretend that it wasn’t doomed now. Or not doomed: over.
Before continuing to answer Roy’s expectant but stormy look about where she was going, she tugged at her left hand and held the ring she removed out to him.
“I’m leaving, Roy.”
He stared at her.
She set the ring on the table by the door where they kept their mail and turned to pick up her bag and boxes and leave, when she heard him finally respond.
“You’ll be back.”
She shrugged the duffel back onto her back, dug out her keys, and grabbed her boxes.
“No, I really won’t. Goodbye, Roy. I’m sorry it didn’t work out.”
And she was gone. She was a little sad, but not surprised, that he didn’t follow her out. She loaded up the truck and pulled out of the driveway. She’d have to get another car, she realized, and leave this one for Roy, maybe in the Dunder Mifflin parking lot, because she was not a pickup girl. But she could drive it, and her name was on the title too, so she didn’t have any guilt about taking it now.
She briefly considered calling Jim and telling him, but settled on calling her mother (hands-free, of course, for safety). There would be time for that later. And besides, she realized as she began to laugh (startling her poor mother, who had just picked up) she should probably change before she saw him again. She was still wearing that damn dress.