One evening, she just took herself off and did it.
It had been a grand total of two weeks, three days, and one and a half hours since the idea she’d had of her life and where it was going got totally and completely rerouted. She’d made peace with the idea of having to move on. Loved him enough to let him go, and also loved herself enough to accept it and still go on to have a life of her own that she could be proud of and content with.
So how did her life change so drastically in the space of under ten seconds? It happened all the time in movies, to starry-eyed heroines who she never quite saw herself in, but in real life? To her ? When she’d made every misstep possible and fumbled any opportunity to correct their course?
‘Hey, Pam-... sorry. Are you free for dinner tonight?’
‘Then… it’s a date’
Apart from one.
Anyway, she couldn’t think like that anymore. Playing the blame game and saddling herself with all the guilt was exhausting, and Jim had been right in saying that surely it wouldn’t do either of them any good. They’d both made their choices based on the cards they were dealt, there was no going back to change the past, but they had a real chance now to put things right. She wasn’t with Roy. He wasn’t with Karen. They’d both informed each other in no uncertain terms how much they wanted to be together. There were no more lies, no miscommunication, no deflection or denial.
Pam felt like a tonne weight had been lifted from her back. These past two weeks since their first date she’d walked around feeling positively weightless . She smiled so much easier than she had in months, felt unburdened by that familiar heaviness that had settled in her chest since around the time it became clear that Jim and Karen were serious. The sky was bluer, the air was clearer.
She felt something was beginning. Something amazing.
She felt brand new .
Sitting at her desk that particular morning, it suddenly registered with Pam that her hair felt heavy. Restrictive almost, pulled back in that trusty barrette like it always was (she could blame Michael or Kevin for their loaded glances on the rare occasion she’d let it down for that fact, but in all honesty Pam had just loved her comfort zone too much to change it up).
She locked her computer monitor and glanced at her reflection in the black screen, studying it intently.
Her hair looked almost exactly the same as it had every single day since her Junior year of high school. It was long. It was curly (bordering on frizzy most of the time). It was reddish-brown. Nothing different, always the same. Roy had liked it long, as girly and ‘traditionally feminine’ as possible. She remembered that he liked to run his fingers through it when they’d cuddled, one of the rare and infrequent forms of intimacy that had placated Pam into inertia for as long as she let herself stay tethered to him. The weight of it before, she realised, had actually been comforting. Safe.
For a long time every decision she made in her life revolved around him. Depended on his opinion, his judgement. Other people in general, too. And she’d let it happen . She’d let herself become that passive and docile because she looked at their future together (her future) and felt so empty. A knawing emptiness; like she didn’t really care what happened to her either way.
When she looked towards the future with Jim in the equation instead… that was a different story. She brightened at the thought.
Pam’s eyes narrowed in contemplation and she began playing around with her hair, taking the barrette out, musing it with her fingers. She could feel Jim’s eyes on her - from his newly reacquired desk (which felt oh so right after months of staring at the back of his head), and she glanced up to meet his gaze.
He looked at her questioningly. She smirked and shrugged in response.
They had decided to keep this thing going on between them under wraps for now. What they had now, in this form, whilst solid and built on a strong foundation of friendship and mutual yearning, was fledgling. The office was so intrusive even at the best of times, everybody knew everybody’s business and nobody had any real privacy unless they worked really hard to preserve it. So, at least for now, they wanted ‘ them’ to be purely just for themselves whilst they figured out how to navigate it all.
They walked out of the office together at the end of the day, as ‘friends’ do, and said very platonic goodbyes as they both went to their separate cars. Pam had barely even gotten her seatbelt buckled before her phone chimed with a new text.
‘ Still on for my place tonight? Pizza and movies? ’
Pam bit her lip, feeling like the smile that wanted to bloom would be embarrassingly large.
‘ Sure! Gotta go change and run a couple of errands first, I’ll be by later ’
Not even an hour later, sat in the hairdresser’s chair and emboldened by a sense of confidence that had felt entirely foreign to her until just a couple of weeks ago, she asked them to cut it and told them she wanted something ‘ lighter ’.
Looking at herself in the mirror afterward she felt twice as happy as she had before. Her hair now fell just barely past her shoulders, the shortest it had been since high school, and she just couldn’t stop looking at herself. She even looked like a physical weight had been lifted off her. She couldn’t keep from grinning; feeling young ... and free … and pretty ... and like she wasn’t trying to hide behind anything or look a certain way for anyone other than herself. If she wasn’t careful she felt like she could’ve floated out of the salon doors rather than walked.
Although she’d done it for herself, for who she’d become and grown into, she unapologetically couldn’t wait to show Jim.
When Jim opens the door and finds her on his doorstep, looking proud as punch and brimming with newfound confidence, she can’t help but smile first. His eyes briefly widen before quickly mirroring her smile.
“Oh wow ” he said, looking slightly taken aback. He reached out to touch it before thinking better of himself. If she’s just got it done, what’s the chance she wants me to mess it up immediately afterwards?
“You like it?” she responded, tone tinged with hope. If she was being honest with herself, for as much as she was aware how unlike Roy Jim was, reflexively a little part of her was still prepared for him not to notice. She told herself she wouldn’t be disappointed, that the amount cut was enough to be noticeable but not super dramatic, and either way she liked it and that’s what mattered most.
She’d have to get used to giving Jim more credit than that.
“You look…” he said in wonderment, trailing off in search of just the right word as he studied her, backlit and bathed in gold glow by the setting summer sun. Amazing? Radiant? Like a freakin’ angel? All those things in a physical sense, but there was an air of something different about her too that he could just feel standing in her presence. “So beautiful”.
Pam could tell he genuinely meant it, and chuckled as she ducked her head, before looking up at him through her lashes. “So now you’re not the only ‘Big Haircut’ around here, huh?”
Jim snorted with laughter. “Oh I will gladly pass you that mantle, Beesly” he said, miming taking a crown off his head and putting on hers. He’d already very resolutely committed to his plans of letting his own hair grow back out as quickly as possible, and personally couldn’t wait for the day when he morphed back into someone he actually recognised when he looked in the mirror.
She beamed at him, the silly, sweet Jim-ness of the gesture making her heart flutter in her chest. God, she'd missed this. Unable to hold herself back any longer, she propelled herself forward and caught his face in her hands, capturing his lips in a kiss. As if by reflex his hand found its way into the back of her hair, and he ran his fingers down through it, smiling against her lips and laughing slightly when they came to the end and trailed out to fall to her shoulder blade. Her happiness was infectious; he was at peace just basking in the glow of it.
“I love it…” She felt his breath tickle her face as he pulled away just enough to murmur it, though his gaze never leaves hers and the adoration there both makes her melt a little and strengthens her resolve. Her smile widened, and her own eyes flickered up to meet his directly, the tone of her voice layered with a certain unspoken meaning.
“I love it too”.