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Pam went quietly into the small bathroom and closed the door behind her. Still the thick, unwavering well loved voices of her parents worked their way through the fibreglass to reach her. Nervously sitting down on the closed toilet lid, she looked around the room with unfocused eyes. Shower, sink, toilet. Medicine cabinet. Faded jade wallpaper with an indistinct design that probably at one time someone had thought was artsy.

She hated that she would be living in a place that had jade walls.

As if she didn't have enough hideous things in her life. Jade for jealousy. Jade for purity.

She was anything but pure.

Pam pondered if she would ask her new landlady to allow her to redecorate. She wondered if she would stay there long enough to redecorate.

"Look at the potential." Helene had cheerfully advised. "It's lovely to think of all the things you'll be able to do now that you're on your own."

On her own. She had never been so on her own before. Yet, there she was, in the center of her very own circle of angels, her protectors, her guides. Her family. A trio of attentive ears and sheltering arms. She had them and they had her.

But nobody can ever truly understand another persons grief. No one could look at her and say honestly they had been through exactly what she had; no two experiences match, no reaction or emotion is identical. She knew this. No matter how many arms held her up, no matter how much empathy was offered, it couldn't drive out the splinter of ice that split her off from the people who cared about her. How could they possibly understand?

She had grown up in a safe, trusted small household where bumps in the road were few and far apart. Before she knew it she was whisked out to navigate this huge world alone. There are expectations in adulthood. Adults are expected to work, eat, sleep. Adults are expected to know how to survive. Adults are supposed to conform. When she'd first met Roy, a towering thick bodied man, over confident and strong, he exuded a naturally protective aura that was very appealing to a young woman just out of the sheltered nest of her childhood home. A young woman very unsure of herself and her ability to cope on her own. The unexpected interest Roy had shown in her had absolutely thrilled her young self. She had thought she was the luckiest girl in the world, Pam remembered bitterly.

How wrong she had been.

"Roy shocked us all." William had said early on in her visit. Out of the two parents he seemed to have taken the uncovering of Roy's true nature most personally. "He's going to be so sorry he touched you." he could often be heard muttering darkly to himself. Then he would catch Helene's eye and force out a joke or a funny story in attempt to make Pam laugh.

Her father had been against the idea of his daughter coming back to Scranton. He positively refused to let anything like this happen again, he said. Helene had been the voice of reason, as always, reminding him their daughter was an adult free to live wherever she chose. With barely disguised reluctance he drove Pam multiple two hour journeys back and forth and even helped with packing and moving to her new apartment without out too much grumbling.

For Pam's part, she had considered not returning. It would be so easy to stay with her parents, and not have to worry about a thing, to go back to that warm cocoon of childhood where everything felt safer.

Yet, over the last weeks, a new resolute determination was calcifying inside of her, her tears turning to a stubbornness she didn't know she was capable of. She didn't want to be that girl any longer. She didn't want to be the girl who always needed to rely on someone, the girl who couldn't support herself. She had a job in Scranton. She had – memories, - her mind tormented her – friends in Scranton. Jim was there.

Jim. She missed him terribly. They had barely kept in touch, although he was on her mind so much of the time. It had been hard not contacting him, a constant fight raging from her brain to her heart. They needed time apart. They needed distance. To step away from the situation they – she – had entangled them in. Both of them, the emotionless side of her brain insisted, must not be led by feverish emotions over everything else. Sure, they had kissed – and what a kiss it had been – yet for herself, she wasn't clear on what exactly it meant to her. What Jim meant to her.

"Jim is wonderful, absolutely wonderful." Helene had gushed over him.

"That doesn't help any, Mom." Pam had consistently implored her to stay impartial.

"Well, as long as you're talking about the future, then let me say that there are many, many men out there who don't have the decency that he does. That's why you went to him for help. Okay, so you didn't come to your old Mom but you did the next best thing."

Her Mom's unwavering support, important though it was to her, did little to help her untangle her emotions. Throughout the years Pam and her mom had usually been able to read each other like open, well loved books. Part of what she found so special about Jim was that almost immediately she recognized that they had the same innate, subconscious passing of words and emotions between them. They read each other well.

"You get roses in your cheeks when you talk about him." Helene teased her. "Especially the kiss."

The kiss. The kiss was physical. The future was real. She saw the two standing on two horizons, no sign of a path between them. Despite her gentle joking, Helene had cautioned Pam about the benefits of not rushing into things; about pacing herself- about being in love.

The best advice her mom gave her during her visit was simple; you don't have to be figure everything out today.

"I have a feeling Jim will wait." Helene had finished with a merry twinkle in her eye.

So, she had come back to Scranton. One thing remained unchanged. She missed Jim. She missed his sharp sense of humor, his unconditional support, his friendship. From a distance the things she couldn't consciously see before took shape– that Jim was in love with her, he did really care about her. She-

"Pam? You okay"

Pam flinched, startled by the sudden invasion into the world she'd drifted off into. She stood up, finding herself face to face with herself. Pale. Tired. Weak.

Grimacing at her other self, she snatched up a towel from the basket she had carried in earlier. Throwing it over the cabinet, she covered the mirror, confining the other Pam to darkness.

She opened the bathroom door.

"I'm fine Mom. Better get to work on the bedroom." she said smoothly, shutting the door behind her.


It was gone one in the morning when Jim slumped back into the empty house. Swimming with enough cheap beer to make him slightly unsteady, but not enough to say he was completely wasted, he flopped down unceremoniously on the couch, his right arm hanging low.

He eyed the small blue bag he'd brought in from the driveway. He'd almost not noticed it, nestled as it was behind the old empty fern pot; if the security light hadn't flicked on – it more often than not refused to switch on, annoyingly so on late and dark, not quite drunken nights like this one – he probably wouldn't have even seen a shadow of it.

He didn't have to open it. He knew Pam had left it; he knew that small, slightly cursive handwriting on the label as well as he knew his own.

She had been there.

Jim groaned, rolling over on to his other side, away from the room. He didn't want to get up. He didn't want to see anything or deal with anything. He just wanted to sleep.

What did it mean? Pam was in Scranton? Questions swirled in his brain. She was back. What did it mean for the two of them? He rolled back on to his other side, gazing at the little blue gift bag. Lazily he leaned over, pulling at the pink paper square poking out of the top. Teasing it out of the bag – which turned out to be much more difficult one handed than he had anticipated – he snatched it up and ripped it open without a moment's hesitation.

Pure white exploded out of the envelope. Purple slashes across the front conveyed a swirling thank you message. A small, painful smile lifted the corners of his mouth. The message she had scrawled inside was short and simple, yet touched him right down to the root. His smile grew bigger as he looked down on the card.

She hadn't addressed the card, or signed it. Inside it simply carried fourteen words in red ink, stark and passionate against the white background.

'Words will never be enough to say thank you for making my heart smile."

Jim laid the card beside him, rolling over again, his gift forgotten. He thought of the last few months. She brought out his better self – there was no question of that. She made him want to do good things, to be completely unconditionally unselfish. She had taught him what it meant to always put someone else first, to have another persons welfare and happiness a priority over his own.

His feelings had not changed while she had been gone – how could they? He was bound to her in love; he couldn't break those chains. And yet he hurt, hurt so much. She had left. She had kissed him and then she had left. She had become the sunniest part of his life, allowing him to feel, at least vicariously, the sensation of being with her all the time, if not truly with her. And then, she had left – simply walked from his sky and left him behind in blackness.

He wasn't stupid or crazy. He knew things could be good for them both, really good. Perfect, in fact. They were both hurting in different ways. Again, he was left waiting. Waiting for her to point out their next move. What if she decided they could only be friends – or not at all? Could he accept that, could he live with that?


It was almost noon by the time he woke up, stiff and sore necked – his shoulders twisted achingly with his head almost right angled. Damn, the couch was the most uncomfortable place to sleep. He didn't know how Pam had managed it without complaint, injured as she was. But it was not his aching muscles, his screaming neck that had woken him up, it was the irrepressible ring of his cell phone.

He hesitated, griming sleep out of his eyes with his knuckles. Finally he scooped up his cell, somewhat relieved as the ringing snapped off in his hand. No caller ID.

Jim rolled his eyes – he'd been woken up for nothing, a mysterious non caller. Then he saw it, the little two circle symbol at the top of the screen. Without getting up from the couch, Jim put the phone to his ear and pressed for the answerphone.

One new message. Yesterday, nineteen twenty-seven pm exactly.

His heart swelled painfully inside his chest as her sweet, so familiar voice lilted through the darkness.

"Uh… hey… Halpert. I guess I missed you. Um…"

There was an infuriating pause. Jim held his breath, anticipating.

"I'm here, um back to stay, I guess. I actually have an apartment. The address is in the bag I left you, I hope you found it. I didn't know if I should use the key you gave me. Er, call me back, and I can come over, or you can visit me. It's weird having my own place. My parents helped me move stuff.

You gotta see the neighbors here. There's an old guy who sits outside shirtless wearing a cowboy hat and asking people the time all day. I think he might be undercover for the CIA or something. Not sure what his mission is for yet but I have a theory it involves Texas. I'll keep you posted. And the guy who lives above me looks just like Dwight. He even wears yellow shirts. I'm getting a great prank idea. Something to do with clones again.

Hey um… I've really missed you a lot. I guess I'll see you at work on Monday. Well call me back if you want to… or not. I guess we need to talk."

Jim couldn't help but smile broadly as the message ended. We need to talk, she had said. Back to work Monday.

Things were looking up.

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