You can live a lifetime in a week.
Her Monday starts with an end. She spends the day in transit. A flight, a drive, a funeral and repeat.
Her mother clasps her hand all day and whispers memories. It’s not her loss. Well, it is, but not in the same visceral way it grips her mother. Helene has a few true friends who have traversed life with her and now there is one less.
Pam’s heart aches for the woman she counted as an aunty, but also for the grief she can see reflected tenfold in her mother’s gaze.
Jude had passed unexpectedly. Every time Pam closes her eyes, she can hear the crack in her mother’s voice as she had called to break the news.
“I don’t want to upset you,” Helene had murmured. “I don’t know if grief is good for the baby.”
Pam had rubbed at barely there bump beneath her skin and murmured. “Mom?” And there was that crack, a thundering divide between the knowing and the not knowing. “What’s wrong?”
“Oh,” and she’d sunk to stool in her kitchen on unsteady legs.
“They think maybe it was a heart attack,” the grief washes over her. Her mother’s voice is thick, heavy with emotion.
It hits her twofold, because it’s Jude and she loves her dearly and has known her for the entirety of her life. But also, because apparently she’s reached that age where her mom’s friends are dying and the stark reality of her mother’s own mortality hits her square in the chest.
“Mom. I’m so sorry,” she had choked out.
She let the grief tug at her and pull her under for a moment. Broken sobs spilled from her lips.
Jim emerged from the shower, steam billowing around him. It had been Saturday and he’d been at the Y for a pickup basketball game.
He found her with tear stained cheeks and the smile dropped instantly from his lips. “What’s wrong?”
He’d crossed the room in two long strides and wrapped his arms around her. “It’s mom,” she’d managed to choke around the sorrow.
He’d looked at her with wild, worried eyes.
“No,” she’d added. “It’s mom’s best friend. It’s Jude.”
“Oh. I’m sorry, Pam,” he’d rubbed his hand in soothing circles on her back as she’d hiccuped against his chest. “Is your mom okay?”
She’d shaken her head. “I don’t think so.”
“What do you need?” he’d murmured into her hair. Her sweet fiancé. He always just got it, what she needed. She’d wrapped herself a little more tightly around him.
“I’m going to drive over to mom’s and just be with her.”
“Do you want me to come?”
She’d sighed. She always wanted him close. But this wasn’t about her. Her sadness is secondary to what her mother must be feeling. She could process her own crap later.
“No. It’s okay.”
And it was, in its own way. She’d spent the night with her parents, her sister and memories of Jude. They talk about the period when she lived with a flight attendant and would bring young Pam and Penny tiny bottles of shampoo from hotels in Paris. They talk about her larger than life personality. Helene shared stories from before the girls had been born, some they hadn’t heard before. They’d basked in the good times and lamented the opportunity for more.
More than once, Pam had glanced at the ring on her finger and let the sadness settle over her at the thought of one less guest come October.
Monday comes and so does the funeral. Penny can’t come, it’s too last minute for her to get the time off work.
Pam is met with unexpected kindness from Michael. He tells her to take the day, but she’ll still get paid. It makes it easier to pay for the last minute flight.
Jude’s family, including her elderly mother live in a small country town, a few states over. She will be buried in the same graveyard as generations of her family. The funeral will be held in the same small town.
So, Pam takes her mother’s hand and the day is swallowed up by travel. There’s a three hour flight and then a two hour drive. The service itself is serious and somber and nothing at all like the charismatic lady herself. But that’s okay, because it gives Pam and Helene something to chuckle about, on a day where a little levity goes a long way.
They celebrate Jude. They remember. Pam quietly supports her mother in whatever way she can. Her hand slipping to her own little ray of possibility more often than not. She feels the loss, that her bump is missing out by not being in the world at the same time as Jude. She wishes that their paths had had the opportunity to cross.
She watches the time patiently and then gently steers her mother from the wake. It’s time.
She retraces the drive, carefully taking the winding twists and turns, before the road straightens out to highway and the sprawling farms are replaced with the fringes of the city.
They make it in time for their flight. She sees her mother home before collapsing in her own bed.
Jim reaches for her in the darkness and tugs her close and she is okay. Sad, but okay.
Her Tuesday is worse.
She’s already heavy and sluggish, both with grief and exhaustion from Monday pushing at the edges.
They have an appointment with the gynecologist scheduled for the afternoon. She’s almost twelve weeks. It’s the first time they’re seeing this doctor. It’s the first time they’re seeing any doctor again after the news and the initial confirmation.
The look on Jim’s face when he found out. It buoys her on her darkest days. Even now, when she feels weighed down by grief. He’s so excited. She is too, of course. But, he just has this sureness about him, like everything will be alright. They’ll be fine. They can be parents. It’ll be easy, seamless. They’ll just transition to this whole new thing without a care in the world.
She wishes she could have his confidence. She’s more of a worrier, wearing a hole in her bottom lip as she thinks through the worst. Like, maybe they should have been saving more money for this whole thing. It’s not exactly free to have a baby. The start up cost alone… and then there’s the whole lifetime of commitment thing. She wants to be able to provide everything for her child.
It’s fine though, because Jim knows it will be fine and she tries to let a little of his confidence rub off on her each and every day.
They slip out of the office a little early, and swing by the house quickly because Pam needs the bathroom and it’s on the way to their appointment.
She finds a package in her mailbox. It’s addressed to baby Halpert and Jim purses his lips at her. Oh. Right.
They had agreed to tell their parents, waiting til further along to tell their friends (and never to tell their colleagues). Pam hasn’t even told Penny. But, she did maybe mention it to Isabel because sometimes a girl needs to talk about the crazy crap happening to her body with her best friend. That’s definitely who this parcel is from. And maybe she didn’t mention it to Jim that she’d told Isabel. Whoops.
She winces a little and smiles sweetly at him. “So, I told Isabel.”
“I can see that,” he sighs.
She kind of likes that he’s a little protective of their child already.
“I just don’t want anyone at work to know yet.”
“And who’s Isabel going to tell? I’m sure she’d love to meet Dwight?” she shoots back.
They’re lightly bickering as they pull up at the doctor’s office. “I just wish that you’d told me that you’d told her, that’s all,” Jim mutters.
“Hopefully, we’ll be able to tell more people soon. I feel like this bump is starting to get obvious,” she rubs the front of her shirt, crinkling her nose as she peers at her barely protruding stomach.
“Unless you want Michael rubbing your stomach all day, you better hope that it doesn’t become too obvious,” Jim chuckles.
They sit at reception, Pam dutifully fills in all the forms. She nudges Jim and hands him a flier for classes for new first timers. He reads it carefully and then her name is called, far more quickly than she was expecting. That bodes well. She may just like this doctor.
Doctor Benedict has kind eyes and pleasant bedside manner and Pam decides that she definitely likes him.
He asks a few questions about her pregnancy and then smiles gently. “Let’s see this baby! Let’s get to the good stuff.”
He settles Pam onto the stiff bed as Jim hovers beside her.
She tugs her shirt from her skirt and shivers at the cold gel of the ultrasound. Her heart stutters in nervous anticipation.
“Hmm,” is all he says as he presses the wand into her stomach. “Okay, Pam. I’m going to swap to a transvaginal ultrasound, see if we can get a better view.” His smile is tight around the edges.
She’s still excited, but something that feels a little like dread is creeping in.
He leaves them for a moment and Jim squeezes her hand reassuringly. She tugs her underwear off and hands them to Jim for safekeeping.
The door opens and a nurse appears. She offers a soft greeting, before Doctor Benedict returns.
He starts the second ultrasound.
And suddenly she’s having one of those nightmares. It’s high school and she’s naked in front of the entire school. Except, it’s far, far worse. It’s a doctors surgery and they’re being told that they’ve lost their baby.
She hears what he’s saying. All at the same time, she can’t hear what he’s saying, because… it can’t be. He’s wrong. He’s wrong.
She needs someone to pinch her and wake her up from this horror.
She feels things. Her appetite is through the roof. She has to pee every seventeen seconds. There’s a bump. It’s growing. She can feel it.
He says it again, she nods like she understands what he’s saying. Jim’s eyes on her are stricken.
Doctor Benedict leaves again and Jim hands her her underwear.
She pulls it back on and Doctor Benedict returns.
Her words are wooden. “I understand,” she lies. Jim and the doctor speak in hushed tones. She catches pieces.
“Resolve itself naturally…”
“There is also surgery.”
Jim shakes the doctor’s hand. She is surprised to find that she can actually stand on her feet.
She walks back to the car on autopilot. Jim is shooting her concerned glances.
He unlocks the car. She opens her door and sinks to her seat, tugging it closed behind her.
The second it latches, her composure slips.
The tears come and they don’t stop coming. She can’t make them stop.
She sobs and sobs and sobs and still the emptiness inside her remains a gaping chasm.
She feels pregnant. That’s the worst part. It doesn’t feel over. Her stomach growls, but there’s nothing to actually nurture. She doesn’t need food.
Her body is playing the cruelest prank of all time, telling her that she’s still having a baby when it’s over. The baby is gone.
She turns the pamphlet the receptionist slipped to her over and over again in her hands as the grief wracks her body. The words taunt her. Miscarriage support. She doesn’t want this. This isn’t what she signed up for.
She still can’t stop crying.
Jim silences the ignition as they pull up at the house.
He leads her inside and bundles her against his chest. Her tears soak his shirt in seconds.
She croaks. “I’m sorry. It’s okay. I’m okay. I’m just,” she gestures to their bedroom.
He releases her reluctantly.
She strips her clothes mechanically and then she’s in the shower, her tears mingling with the hot water and disappearing down the drain like all her hopes and dreams.
“I need to get this out. I need to not feel pregnant. I need this to be over,” she tells Jim when he comes to check on her a few minutes later.
He takes a deep breath and blows out an, “okay.”
“I want the surgery. I can’t wait for my body to realize on its own, I can’t keep feeling like this for weeks. I want this over.”
He nods. “I’ll call the doctor and set up the operation.”
“Please,” she whispers rawly. “The sooner it’s out. The sooner we can try again.”
Pain flickers over Jim’s face. “Whatever you need, Pam,” he answers a little brokenly. She feels as if her body has betrayed them both.
She wants this baby. She doesn’t want another baby. But, there is no this baby. Not anymore.
Wednesday is Jim’s birthday. It’s unforgettable for all the wrong reasons.
They go to work, because without the routine she will break apart. That’s not what she tells Jim, she just shrugs and says, “I’ve already missed a day this week.”
The funeral already feels like it was weeks ago and yet the grief slicing her heart is this jagged thing. The cuts for the loss of Jude are raw open wounds still, this new loss is a jagged crisscross of cuts that run deeper still. Her whole heart feels torn to shreds, each wound open and weeping.
She’s a mess.
Her body is a mess. Her thoughts are a mess. Her heart is so far beyond a mess that the Red Cross may soon arrive with international aid.
They go to work. What else is there to do?
At 9am, barely a moment after they walk in the door, Jim’s cell is ringing. He excuses himself to the hallway and from Dwight’s prying eyes.
He comes to her desk a few minutes later with downcast eyes. She hates the dark rings sitting under them, she feels responsible for them.
It’s his birthday. She had things planned. Nice things. But, she can’t…
“That was Doctor Benedict,” he murmurs. “He can squeeze you in today. We have to be at the hospital by 11?”
She nods. Tears prick her eyes, hot and heavy. She tries to swallow them back down. Not here. Not now.
“Today,” she swallows roughly. “Today is good.”
Jim jerks a look over his shoulder towards Michael. She follows him into Michael’s office, dragging her feet behind her. She hopes tactful Michael is close to the surface today.
“Michael,” Jim speaks for her. It’s probably better this way. She’s not sure she can hold it together long enough to croak coherent words out.
“You know how we left early for that doctor’s appointment yesterday?”
“Yeppers,” their boss grins. His smile is too wide. Pam wants to shy away from it. She can’t deal with his childlike enthusiasm right now.
“Pam’s doctor just called. She has to go back in for a little procedure. It’s not a big deal,” he winces around the lie. “But, he’s scheduled it for today. Is it okay if we leave early? I have to get Pam to the hospital by 11.”
Michael looks around Jim to Pam, worry seeping from his pores. She’s quieter than usual which fuels his panic.
“Is she okay?” He meets her eyes again. “Are you okay?”
“I will be, Michael,” her tone is more even and sure than she expects it to be. She doesn’t really believe it, at least not in this moment. All she feels now is how not okay it is.
“Oh,” he breathes. “Okay. Then fine. Yes. You may go.”
He smiles softly at Jim. “Take good care of her,” he instructs.
“Will do,” Jim answers, the genuine truthfulness of the statement coloring his tone.
Michael then has a very Michael brainwave. He lights up. “Want me to come? For emotional support?”
“Err, no thanks, Michael,” they answer in unison.
Neither of them follows this with jinx which tells Pam more about how much Jim is drowning in this too than anything else.
She wants to help him, wants to reach out a hand and try to save him, but her own grief is pulling her under.
She’s on a plummeting plane and can’t help Jim put his face mask on because she hasn’t secured her own yet. She hopes they can find each other in the wreckage after this all comes crashing down around them.
It’s his birthday.
She keeps trying to focus on that.
She remembers it as she fills in even more paperwork. She thinks about it as they sit in the stale waiting room, watching time pass by excruciatingly slow seconds.
It’s at the top of her mind as the nurse has her remove her clothes and jewelry and dresses her in a gown.
She hands Jim back his engagement ring for safekeeping and hates the emptiness on her finger. “I’m sorry,” she tells him. “This is the worst birthday ever.”
“Probably,” he agrees. “But, it’s okay.”
She loves him for lying to her. “I’ll make it up to you,” she promises. “I was going to stop on the way home from work today and get you cake from that cafe.”
“The honey cake?”
She nods. “Yeah, your favorite.”
Despite the darkness and the sleepless night, his eyes light up for a second.
“That’s sweet. Thank you.”
“I didn’t do it,” she sighs. “Obviously.” She frowns down at the ill fitting gown.
“I’m really sorry, Jim.” And this time she’s not talking about her birthday.
His hands cup her face. “Pam,” he breathes, she feels it warm her cheeks. When she glances up, his face is a few inches from hers. “It’s not your fault. It happens, that’s what the doctor said yesterday. There’s nothing you could have done.”
“It feels like my fault,” she whispers. “I drank that wine…”
“Before we knew,” Jim finishes. “It’s. Not. Your. Fault.” He punctuates his words by closing the distance between them and pressing his lips gently to hers.
His gentle sincerity combined with her own self loathing send the tears that have been brimming in her eyes all day rolling down her cheeks.
He wipes them away carefully.
“We’ll be okay,” he promises.
She wants to believe him.
It doesn’t feel like anything will ever be okay again.
The nurse returns and she’s wheeled away. She keeps her eyes on Jim’s face right up until they turn the corner at the end of the long corridor.
Things are a bit of a blur after that. Doctor Benedict’s face swims into her vision. He offers that kind, crooked smile again and there are words of reassurance. The anesthesiologist chatters to her distractingly. She hates needles. That’s a big damn needle.
Then the world blurs at the edges and when she blinks heavy lids a different room greets her.
A nurse bustles around the room, meeting her barely open eyes.
“It’s all done, honey.”
“Okay,” Pam mumbles squeakily.
“How do you feel?” She floats over to her bedside and eyes her shrewdly.
Pam tries to find a little awareness. “Fine, I guess.”
And she does. Kind of. Mostly she feels deflated, but that’s fitting. At least she doesn’t feel stuck in limbo like she has ever since she found out that her uterus was a broken balloon full of nothingness that needed popping.
“I’ll go get your sweet husband from the waiting room. He can sit with you in here.”
Pam doesn’t bother correcting her with fiancé. Close enough. He will be her husband soon enough. She feels wracked anew with guilt over his wasted birthday. She glances at the clock on the wall and mentally curses. It’s 4pm. She’s been out for hours. The day is as good as over.
Jim’s tired smile stretches with relief as he finds her eyes. He drops to the chair at her side and takes her hand.
“How do you feel?” he asks, rubbing her cold fingers between his warm hands.
“Out of it,” she shrugs. “But, okay.” She realizes the word is beginning to lose all meaning. She’s used it so frequently over the past day and has barely meant it any of those times.
Jim frowns a little, but accepts that as enough of an answer. He knows her okay really means anything but at the moment. She kind of wishes she had used a different word. She doesn’t like that she’s made him frown again, on his damn birthday.
“Let’s go home,” she murmurs.
“I don’t think you get to decide that,” he grins - it doesn’t reach his eyes.
To add further weight to Jim’s words, her nurse checks back in.
“What would you like to drink? I’m bringing you some lunch in minute.”
Pam glances at the clock once again, the question remains unspoken, but the nurse understands her all the same.
“You‘ve got to stay just a little bit longer. We want to see you eat something and then that tall drink of water can take you home.”
Evidentially Jim has charmed the nurses while she’s been out. She raises a brow at him and he shrugs bashfully.
“You’re not supposed to eat in the waiting room,” he whispers. “I had to make a friend to get them to bend the rules a little. I wasn’t leaving you here alone.”
She attempts a bit of an eye roll which evidently convinces Jim that she’s a bit less of a mess than he anticipated. He smiles carefully at her.
The nurse clears her throat. Pam replays the last few things that were said in her mind.
“Is.. could I have a cup of tea, please?”
The nurse nods, “can do, honey.”
Pam nibbles at a sandwich and sips at her tea. Guilt free caffeine. It’s a very tiny silver lining, but she’ll take it.
The nurse seems happy enough with her ability to stomach food. She gives them a list of post op instructions. Pam nods dutifully and hopes that Jim is paying more attention than she is. She’s still somewhat groggy which isn’t helping her concentration skills any.
The nurse sits her on the edge of the bed and helps to wipe her down carefully. “You’ll bleed for a few days,” she cautions gently. “Take it easy.”
Pam slips her sweats back on and tries not to think about it all too much.
Her raw heart throbs painfully if she acknowledges the truth of why she’s dressing slowly beside a hospital bed where there’s a pool of her own blood (and maybe the blood of someone that could have been) seeping onto the stark white sheets. The nurse strips the bed silently as she tugs the gown over her head and hands it back. She bundles it with the sheets and takes them all away.
Jim takes her home. And maybe she’s out of tears, or maybe she’s still in shock, but she falls asleep without sobs pushing her into exhaustion like they have the past few nights.
Thursday rolls into Friday and swallows Saturday and Sunday whole. It’s all a daze. She calls in every morning to work and tells the machine she won’t be able to make it. She has a certificate from the doctor, but gynecology is scrolled across it in big letters and she’d rather keep a little mystery with Michael… and HR.
She makes an appointment with her usual doctor, who gives her a new certificate with only Scranton Medical Centre emblazoned over the top which she feels so much better about.
Her doctor is sympathetic. She comes away from the appointment liking her a little more. It helps that there are good people around.
What happens on which day is all a bit of a blur. She hates that she has to call her parents and break the news. Jim has to call his too. It’s one of the worst phone calls she’s ever made. She especially hates that she’s piling more grief onto her mother so soon after losing Jude.
It aches and it aches some more. She lives through each day in a fog. She feels a little bed ridden, still leaking and so very sad.
Monday crests on the horizon once again. She goes to work. She needs to try and get some semblance of normalcy back.
At first it is normal. She answers the phone. She smiles at Jim. She rolls her eyes at Michael. All normal.
Phyllis sits beside her at lunch. “Are you okay, Pam?”
“Yeah, I’m fine now,” she smiles tightly.
Phyllis eyes twinkle in that way they do when she thinks she’s being clever. “I wondered when you were away, I said to Stanley, I bet Pam’s pregnant.”
“Oh,” her eyes drop to her yogurt. “No, not that,” she manages to force herself to say.
She expects the wave of grief, but it’s fierce and dumps her onto the ocean floor. Her insides twist and curl as she’s thrown to the current, unable to surface for air.
“You know,” Phyllis grins, blind to the pain washing over Pam. “Now that you’re engaged, that's what people will ask you next. When are you having a baby? It’s so rude and annoying,” she rolls her eyes. “Some people.” She shakes her head. “So when are you having a baby?”
Pam tries to shrug nonchalantly in response, she’s worried that if she opens her mouth a desperate wail will erupt from her.
“It’s good that we’re friends and can have a joke about this sort of thing. But, it’s really hard for some people. I had a friend who tried to get pregnant for years and I offered to be their surrogate you know…”
The words keep spilling forth from Phyllis. Pam wants to clamp her hands over her ears to drown them out.
Instead, she does the next best thing. She stands abruptly. “I can hear the phone ringing,” she manages to force out. “I’m waiting on an important call. Sorry Phyllis.”
And she retreats, offering her unknowingly insensitive colleague an apology on the way out. Ugh. Sometimes she wishes she could be ruder to people’s faces.
It’s not worth it. It’s easier to sit with her pain than to turn around and say to Phyllis actually I was away because I was the opposite of pregnant. I was away getting what I thought was my baby drained out of me because it had stopped growing. No. There was no way in hell she’s saying that.
Phyllis doesn’t need to know her business. She doesn’t need the pitying looks. She doesn’t need Michael’s sympathy or Angela’s glares.
She just needs to deal with this on her own. With Jim.
Jim finds her at reception, rubbing her temples fiercely.
“Phyllis,” she grounds out and then relays their conversation.
He listens carefully, furrows forming on his forehead. “Do you want me to talk to her?”
“No,” she sighs. “I just want her to never mention it again, without having to say anything to make that happen.”
Jim grimaces. “I’m sorry, Pam.”
“I’m sorry too,” she frowns. “God, I wish things had just worked out.” She slumps forward on her desk and cradles her head in her hands.
Jim reaches over the desk and runs a lock of her hair through his fingers.
“Me too,” he sighs. “Me too.”
She pulls her face up to look at him. With his eyes on her, so full of love and concern, she feels a tiny bit better already.
“Next time,” she murmurs, her bottom lip drawn between her teeth. “Next time it’ll work out.”
“Yeah,” Jim agrees and offers her a crooked half smile. “Next time.”
He squeezes her hand gently and drifts back to his desk. His eyes don’t stray far from her for the rest of the day.
When Pam looks back at her life, most weeks are forgettable. They just roll into the bigger picture and you might remember if it’s a good month or a bad month. Time passes, and then you kind of remember if it’s a good year or a bad year. You don’t remember the weeks. But, some weeks are longer than others. Some leave more of a mark.
You can live a lifetime in a week.