It was a day like every other day. She watched her co-workers putting their jackets on, throwing mugs of coffee waywardly in the sink and filing past her without a glance as they left the office for the day. She sat behind her desk, feeling like a little girl at the side of the road while the cars rushed noisily by her unknowingly. Lately, an unfamiliar sense of unreality had been taking over her. Who was she? Why had she made the choices she had? She was responsible. For everything. She knew that.
She blinked rapidly and shook her head slightly, feeling a twinge above her left eyebrow. Squinting, she looked up at the warm green eyes in front of her.
"Hey, Jim." She smiled back at him. There was a moment of quietness between them as he studied her face, noticing her drawn, stretched skin and purple smudges under her eyes.
"So, uh…. as it turns out, I may not have done so hot on my customer reviews this year."
Pam raised an eyebrow in mock sympathy. "Maybe, that's because-"
"Halpert!" Pam's fiance appeared, rather ungracefully, swaggering over to the reception desk and playfully punching Jim in the arm. Pam flinched involuntarily, but remained quiet. "Let's go, Pam, I'm sure Halpert here has a hot date waiting for him, right?" Roy laughed derisively, catching hold of Pam by the wrist. She stood up quickly, feeling her head swim and allowed Roy to tug impatiently at her, silently signalling to her she was being too slow.
"Yeah, um, see you tomorrow Pam." Jim called out after them, as Roy led the small brunette out of the office. He leaned against her desk a few minutes longer, breathing in the lingering scent of perfume and staring wistfully at the door she had just exited through.
Pam quietly set about laying the table for dinner. Roy hadn't said anything since they'd come in and that worried her. She long ago had learned to notice the subtle flickers in the atmosphere around him when a storm was approaching. His being quiet was far from comforting. It always shocked her, and alarmed her, those sudden changes of temper in Roy. He could switch moods like someone flipping a switch. She had really given up trying to figure out what would cause these white to black transformations to his character. There were just too many variables. She sighed quietly, looking down at the unclothed table.
The TV wasn't on. That was definitely a warning sign. He always came home and plonked in front of the 'game', or whatever football or rugby or basketball was on. He didn't care what sport it was. He only cared about the winning and losing. Roy saw the world split in two; winners and losers. Right and wrong. His right and his wrong. His own commandments were set in stone. Any change to the routine was a harbinger of a Roy shaped rage.
She finished absently setting the table, and went over to the fridge. She looked inside for the blue cans, and routinely counted them. 8. He had put 12 in there just yesterday. He was drinking more than usual lately. She knew the signs.
Dinner was a quiet and uncomfortable affair. Normally this would fill her with some relief, to be free of his usual battering ram of questions about her day. Who did you speak to, Pam? Why were you not there when I came by your desk? Do you love me? Do you?
After picking at her meal, but not really eating, she got up to clear the table. She thought if she got on with the dishes and then headed to the bath she might be able to get off his radar tonight enough to let whatever he was stewing over cool off a little. He just stared at her, moving in and out of the kitchen in nervous little movements.
Starting the dishes now, she submerged her hands into the warm soapy water, comforted in the smooth predictability of the task. Washing dishes would never change. The dishes would never tell her she was dumb as dog and twice as dirty. Her hands shook as she washed, scrubbed, stacked in the drainer. She would head for the bath next and stay there a while. It was a plan.
But a familiar shadow befell her. She tensely carried on washing, now extremely uncomfortable and nervous. She could feel the heat radiating off the angry man standing behind her. She didn't have to turn around to see him, she knew his face was a hard mask of pent up fury. She closed her eyes tightly and waited.
He simply stood there behind her, scarily silent, not moving.
Pam stacked the last plate as quietly as she could. It's fine, it's fine, it's fine everything's normal she chanted over and over in her head. He stood behind her so long she felt the beginnings of a fear she had not felt in a long time. This was bad.
She hesitated, unsure of the best thing to do. How could she avoid stepping on a mine when there was no way around it? She decided the wisest option was to head to the bathroom and get out of his sight for the night.
She made it as far as the stairs before he sprung at her and roughly seized her wrist. She had heard his feet thumping along behind her and had tried to go faster without actually running but she knew she was beat.
Realistically, she'd known that before they sat down to dinner and as always, allowed herself to lull into a false sense of safety. It had been only a matter of time. It always was.
"What were you doing with Halpert earlier?" Roy burst out in sudden fury. She flinched backwards and tried to stammer out an apology. Dropping her eyes to the ground, she cried out as he angrily took hold of her other arm.
"Answer me!" He demanded, gripping her so tightly that red hot pain shot up both her arms into her neck.
He shook her like she was a rag doll, back and forth. Stammering, Pam cried out that he was hurting her, but Roy's rage had overtaken him and he heard nothing, shaking her again and again. Squeezing her eyes shut, the world swam away from her in muted sequences. She was not here. She was looking through the windows of the other Pam, the Pam who said yes and no and I'm sorry and please at all the right moments and didn't forget the mines he laid were armed. The Pam who had made her large fiance so enraged, Pam the deserter,Pam who did question her choices and who maybe did think a little more about Jim Halpert than a committed woman should – that Pam did as she almost always did. She ran away. Snivelling, pleading Pam was left again. She despised her.
The room shrank before her eyes. Breathless and unable to get a coherent word out as the inevitable tears came, she gasped in small breaths and silently pleaded with him to stop it, stop it now. He demanded over and over again to know whether she had seen other men – Halpert – his particular obsession and Pam shook her head vigorously, tears flying from her face.
"If I catch you with Halpert-" he spat out the word in disgust like spoiled meat and then, uncharacteristically, he spat in her face. She flinched back in horror and revulsion as saliva mixed with tears and slipped over her nose and down her chin.
"You'll know about it, Pam. You. Will. Know. You will only do it the once." His voice was low and icy. He shook her again, hard, her head snapping back on her neck and then violently shoved her backwards. Her lower back slammed into the stairs before she realised what was happening and slumped down on to the floor. She lay, the wind completely knocked out of her, moaning quietly. Roy leaned down and gripped tightly a handful of her hair, pulling her face up off the floor towards him.
"Do you understand me?" he breathed icily into her ear. Panting and unable to speak, she jerked her head up and down in assent. Bolts of pain shot through her neck. Roy huffed and viciously pushed her head down into the carpet, the rough fabric searing her skin and temporarily blinding her before she heard the heavy thud of his footsteps growing distant.
She lay there dazed by the impact of her head hitting the floor, paralysed by shock and sufficiently winded enough to make moving not an option for her.
There was no one in the world but her and Roy. She knew this as surely as she knew the earth revolves around the sun. She could not recall when she felt so alone. Roy's rages were metastasizing. A broken finger a month ago. A rib nine weeks ago.
Loud commentary floated out of the living room. The TV was on. She heard it gratefully. That almost always heralded the end of the storm. She knew his patterns and routines. Silently she supposed she should thank fate this hadn't been any worse. She lay there a long time before slowly hauling herself up and shuffling her sore and trembling body to their bedroom.
Crawling under the cool sheets, her tears quickly soaked the pillow. Frightening images, memories plagued her mind and her body shook. She remained there, unmoving until she heard Roy thuggishly come into the room and climb into the bed beside her. She felt him kiss her on the cheek tenderly before rolling over, bloated from beer and exalted by his sense of righteousness that evening.
She thanked god for the beers. They had made him too drowsy to demand anything from her tonight. Soon, she heard loud, familiarly piggish sounds emanating from Roy and knew he was asleep.
She lay awake a long, long time. Finally, as the sun was starting to come up she drifted off mercifully, Jim Halpert's kind green eyes flashing through her mind like a security blanket.