His house stood seeped in darkness, like his love – empty and untended. It seemed to him, as he lay motionless so often around the various places one could lay; couch, bed, even a floor rug – that life was one great sardonic hall of mirrors, and not much else.
Waiting. All he ever seemed to be able to do was wait. First through half a decade of bitterly by-standing the whole Roy-Pam catastrophe. Through the ruins of that relationship, through her absence now, he was still lingering in the fringes of her life. The sheer length of his life that he had devoted to her, to remain in readiness for her, well, it wore a mans nerves down. In the months without her his house had grown, multiplying in spaces and empty corners that were not there before she had come. The house was bigger now without her, a wide spreading emptiness that would not be satiated by any means. In the front room, a musty smell hung with not a trace of the delicate floral scent, sweetly feminine fragrance that was unmistakably hers.
It was almost as though she had never been there.
The rooms took on a joyless air. His life became a matter of routine – work, eat, sleep. None of it brought him pleasure. He ate because he had to eat. He did not sleep and when he did it was thin and worrisome, his despair absorbing and possessing his unconscious form as well. She had been so close. They had been almost. Her absence now left him once again in the echoes of his 'normal' life. For a while she had been right next to him, filling those spaces, creating a home out of his house. And without her, he was alone again, only this time he was unused to being alone. He had been spoiled with her presence and then she had left.
It was very quiet in the living room. His cell phone lay in usual close proximity to himself – the far and few messages from her bringing brief flashes of light into life. The messages were short and to the point. Hi, how are you doing, take care of yourself. All nice and polite, of course. No mention of what happened that last day as she left. No word of when – if - she would be back.
And so, there he was again, waiting. He had made it clear to her exactly how he felt, it was now left to her to either love him or let him go. And what could he do but wait? Maybe that was the foundation of love, waiting, waiting for the storms to pass and the big thaw to come and until finally it's safe to stand under the sun with the girl who is meant to be standing right there beside you.
Jim dragged himself upstairs to find a new place to lay down in. Flopping onto his back on his bed, his eyes were wide, sleepless; fixating on the swirling ceiling patterns. Boring, pointless. That was it. Life. Back to life. No life without her. He had tried. He had tried with Katy, he had tried with other girls. There was no spark, no feeling of fate, no touching of hearts or minds. And now, there was Karen.
Karen, who was clearly interested in him, Karen who made no secret about being interested in him. He wasn't into her at all – she was so far removed from Pam both physically and aesthetically and in temperament that they could have been a different species. Karen didn't have much of a sense of humor, she was clear about not approving of office – Dwight – based pranks at all. Karen though was almost shameless about her fondness for Jim, despite his routine politeness around her. She hovered around him, she fetched him coffee and coke from the machine, often leaning over him so that her honey scented hair draped over his shoulder. And Andy, the other new employee, a man with almost as little filter as Michael had definitely thought something was happening between the two of them and had no qualms about innocently saying so. Loudly.
What Karen couldn't see was how lovesick Jim was; literally sick with love – a love who was far away. He couldn't move forward or back. Karen was not a woman to take a hint, or sit on a hint. She was a woman who knew exactly what she wanted, said what she wanted and aimed, fired and hit her target. Should -if- Pam were to come back Karen was a complication they did not need.
The big surprise for Jim had been Michael. Who would have thought Michael Scott would be the one Jim found himself confiding in – the one person who rooted for him and Pam? Michael, the man who innocently outed Oscar to the office, who had on many, many occasions mocked Toby's failed marriage, who's relationship with Jan was so dysfunctional it bordered on psychotic. But there he was, currently Jim's best ear and confidante.
"Karen… is new to the family." Michael had told him. "She's pretty and she's professional but she's not a long termer. She's not loyal to our family here… she is like Toby in that she is very divorced from our family and she will never get you the way Pam gets you and those stupid jokes and that awesome hair of yours, which Karen makes fun of a least a dozen times a week."
And that was that. Michael could be incredibly insightful in such a clumsy way sometimes, without even be aware of it, and Jim thought he had cemented the issues rather well this time.
"Just drive up there." Had been Michael's sage advice. "Just go, there's no need to conform to relationship norms. Doesn't matter if she's offended, or scared, get real, get up there before she finds another floppy haired kid who looks like you, but younger, before they start eating their ham and cheese together each day."
Jim would have been lying to himself if he tried to deny that the vision of him racing off to her parents house on a whim hadn't appealed to him. Several times. After all, she had suggested he come visit her while she was there. But that was before things got so complicated. Jim was trying hard to avoid stepping on any landmines labelled Roy on the way forward, he certainly did not want her to feel harassed by him. She had told him she needed time. He understood that. She hadn't said no, though, and it was this nugget of hope he was clinging to.
Rolling over languidly on the bed, he recalled their kiss. It had been an electric moment, all the held back chemistry between them had literally exploded when their lips met. She had to have felt that too. More so, he missed their hugs, the way she went to him for comfort and the way she relaxed into him, even falling asleep on him which took great trust on her part. He had fought an urge to call her every day since she had gone just to hear the soft, affable tone of her voice. Jim picked up his phone from beside him.
"Hey Halpert. We made it here safe, just. Dad almost drove us into a four by four on the freeway, Mom says he refuses to wear his glasses. He thinks they make him look old. Will call soon, take care."
The message had buzzed in on the afternoon after she had left. Subsequent texts were brief, friendly, very much impersonal. It drove him crazy. He toyed with sending a "hope to see you soon." or "Miss you." reply. Even the bolder "I still love you." crossed his mind more than once. But. He had always been respectful of her.
Jim snorted to himself. Look where respect had gotten him.
He dozed off into the hazy realm between sleep and wakefulness, swamped in depressive darkness, alone in the spiralling empty house. It was not long before the buzzing of the phone went off like a furious bumble bee. He grabbed it up with a frown, annoyed at the disturbance.
Jim rolled his eyes, hearing soft whispers in the background.
"Uh, Uncle Jimmy?"
Jim huffed in annoyance. "You did it. You actually did it. Uncle Jimmy. Really."
Loud cackling came out of the phone. Jim frowned again.
"Just Uncle Jim, Vanessa." he said pointedly.
"Just having fun, Jimmy." Tom said. More whispering went on. "Your niece has a surprise for you. Go on, sweetheart."
Jim pulled himself up to sit back against the headboard, holding the phone to his ear. Without warning, the shrill vibrating, slightly off key tones of "When the Saints go Marching In" burst brazenly into the open air. Wincing, he sat back and put the phone on speaker, laying it down beside him.
Nearly nine minutes later, Tom was back on the phone, spitting out half words between peals of laughter.
"She's getting really good." Tom said.
"I can tell she's been practising. Jim said dryly. Tom went off into more giggles.
"Uncle Jimmy? Was I good? Daddy said you wanted to hear how good I was at the trumpet."
Jim actually cracked a smile. "It sounded amazing, Vanessa. Well done. Very proud of you."
"I can play you more?" Vanessa replied in her sweet voice. Tom laughed again, and spoke to his daughter.
"Next time, honey. Uncle Pete really wants to hear you play. Nice and loud. Let's give him a call. Say goodbye."
"Uh, goodbye Uncle Jimmy, uh, Jim." she said uncertainly.
"Yep, bye Jimmy-Jim." Tom cheered and hung up, leaving Jim open mouthed. Shaking his head, he slouched back down on the bed, trying to ignore the ringing in his ears. He loved his niece and nephew to death, but god, his brother was an ass at times. Honestly.
Turning on his side, Jim pulled his pillow comfortably under his cheek. Thinking of his little niece brought a small smile to his face. She really wasn't that bad at the trumpet at all, despite how disorienting it was to have it brazenly blasted unaware into your ear for almost ten minutes. He would have to teach her how a trumpet could be put to excellent use as an alarm clock. Especially as his brother was so proud of her playing… Tom wouldn't mind a little early morning surprise, Jim thought. His birthday was coming up after all.
Suddenly Jim laughed, no longer minding the prank. His mind had left Pam for a moment, for a moment he was somewhere else, with family, with good humor. He closed his eyes. Minutes later, the phone vibrated again, scratching jarringly against the nightstand. He scooped it up, preparing to respond in kind to Tom's next prank when he stopped short at the brief words on the screen. His heart jumped into his throat as he read over the message again and again, reading between the lines.
"I miss you.
See you real soon,
love Pam x"
Jim stared at the words. He debated a response. What would the right thing be, to respond back straight away or wait a while? He lay back, tussling with himself. In the end he tapped four words into the screen and hit send before he could doubt himself any further.
With a fresh burst of energy, Jim sidled off of his bed and went to make himself some dinner.
In a small house two hours away, Pam sat on the fresh new bed in her parents guestroom, gazing down at her phone and the short reply that had just buzzed in. Four little words that flowed into her like an adrenaline shot. A smile formed in her eyes and she sat back, hugging her pillow to her chest.
"I miss you too."