Two weeks had passed since the beginning of Pam’s next chapter of life had started. Unintentional as it was, it was a new chapter, The Dunder Mifflin door had closed and she’d gotten engaged… all in the same day.
Jim and Pam had spent every day apart and attempted to make up for it at night when he came over or she surprised him at his apartment the nights that Mark worked. It wasn’t the perfect system yet. She felt like she was missing out on pieces of his life that she’d taken advantage of when she saw him every second of every day. Did he still like Jelly Beans or was his fondness of them simply because of her?
Pam secretly spent the daytime working hours equal parts loathing everything and mourning the job she never even liked, teaching herself quality life skills, like how to play Family Feud. Who knew, maybe she’d be on there herself. She wasn’t certain of much anymore. When Jim would leave each morning, she would feel pretty silly sitting in her polka dotted pajamas while he put on his dress shirt and tie each day. It certainly didn’t help her current outlook on life. However, she didn’t want to upset him, so she secretly watched his car drive down the road (when he stayed with her) or left at the same time (when she stayed with him). She was able to be much stealthier when she was at her own place. She’d wait until his car disappeared, immediately turn the television on and wouldn’t move from her spot on the couch until it was almost time for Jim to come home. At that time she’d get up, shower off the sheer embarrassment she felt for her life right now, and cook dinner. She could fake having it all together while he was home. She did feel quite guilty though, lying to him like this. They were engaged now so weren’t they supposed to feel comfortable sharing all the intimate details of their lives with each other? It’s not that she didn’t feel comfortable, she was ashamed of the person she’d become. This was unlike her and her character. Bringing it up to Jim frightened her more. The unreasonable side wondered if he’d call their engagement off. She constantly had to remind herself that he’d proposed while knowing the circumstances.
On this particular day in October though, Pam had carried out her normal routine, watched Jim get ready for work, kissed him goodbye, and waited until his car disappeared down the road. Two hours into her morning binge session, a familiar feeling came across her. She had a desire to paint that she hadn’t felt in months. She switched the program off, stood up from the couch and stretched. She suddenly felt refreshed. She padded off to the extra room that was for storage, but also housed her paints and canvases. Picking up her easel from behind a moving box and a blank canvas from the stack, she felt the shock of being alive hit her system. The paints hadn’t gone bad yet for which she was grateful. Minutes later she had squeezed the colors onto a palette and began painting what she felt.
Jewel tones mixed with black and cream. They swirled around into an impressionist painting that had no meaning to anyone besides her when she looked at it. She had started at the right-hand side of the canvas using the colors jam, emerald, navy, and black. They represented the loneliness she felt during the day, the one thing that had made her happy (well, mostly...it was Jim who made her happy, but the office was the reason she’d met him). It showcased the emotions she felt during each work day and the uncertainty that loomed over her.
By the middle of the canvas, the colors slowly mixed together to create a transition from the dark to the light. The cream paint helped her create this and represented the newness of this next chapter of her life. It also felt “bridal” to her and while her mind constantly stressed over her job, she had to remind herself to enjoy this season of life. She thought about how vastly different it was from her previous engagement. It wasn’t fair to compare the two, but she often found herself doing so. Jim made this engagement feel the way it was supposed to, a partnership between two that become one. While the planning wasn’t too far along, Pam felt more stable this time around.
Breathing in a content sigh as she let the brush stroke across the canvas one last time, she stepped back to admire her piece. She was glad she’d selected a 16x20 size as it showed progression across it. The room smelled like acrylic so she moved to the window to push it open. Taking a deep breath to soak in the autumn air before it was gone, she tried to recall the last time she was outside for pleasure and it had enjoyed the simple moments of the world, a bird chirping, the way the wind whistled around corners, or just a simple walk down the street. She checked the time, glancing at her watch that now had a light brush of emerald on the band, “Only noon. I still have time.”
She sent Jim a quick text message requesting he meet her at Nay Aug Park around 1:00pm. She received a quick response of glee.
She figured she only had twenty minutes to get ready so she rushed towards the shower, scrubbing her hair and body clean as quickly as she could. Seven minutes later she stepped out feeling renewed. She found her mascara on the bathroom counter, forgotten a few weeks ago and swiped on a few layers before applying some tinted lip balm. It wasn’t much, but for her, it was a start at becoming Pam 6.0...or 2.0...whatever it was.
Slipping on her favorite jeans and Jim’s favorite green sweater of hers, she skipped towards the front door, grabbing her keys and a jacket.
A rush of cool autumn air hit her cheeks, flushing them almost instantly. She was reminded of her walk to her car a few weeks ago on doomsday. Though this time, she felt free and different.
She opened her car door and immediately turned on her favorite variety station. Drops of Jupiter, a song she hadn’t heard in a while came on. She recalled playing it on repeat when it first debuted. It was added to her list of “always play” from then on.
A quick stop at the sub shop down the street to pick up their lunch, tuna for Jim, veggie for her, some apples, and a pickle to split, and she was ready for his surprise lunch. Well not really a surprise since she asked him to meet her here, but it was unplanned until an hour ago.
She spotted him, long and lean, resting against the hood of his car and she pulled up next to him. He immediately greeted her at the driver side door and pulled her into a warm hug, planting a kiss on top of her head.
“Well, aren’t you a sight for sore eyes.” he said, a smile playing on his lips and a finger twirling a curl.
She sighed into him, “You are the sweetest. I guess that’s why I felt so inclined to buy you lunch today!” Jim glanced past her to see the sandwiches sitting on the passenger seat.
“Bees, you always know how to make a day better. This is awesome!”
They make their way to a park table nearby. She reveled in the crunch of leaves she felt under her feet and marveled at the way Jim’s hair naturally tousles itself in the wind. She can’t believe he’s hers. Not that she needs a reminder of what she almost lost, but moments like this do that to her. She feels overwhelmed with emotion and decides Jim’s seen enough of mopey Pam the last few weeks and takes a bite of her sandwich instead.
“The new receptionist they hired is garbage.” Jim tells her between bites. “Dwight has told her at least twenty times this week how to transfer calls to the sales team. Even Michael is over it.” He pauses and sees her lips lift on one side. She does. Not. Miss. Being. A. Receptionist. She just envies everyone who gets to spend time with her boyf-wait, fiance, she has to remind herself.
“I think Dwight wants you to come back.” Jim says, a hopeful look in his eye.
That’s when it hits her, she doesn’t want this job anymore. Why does she keep reliving this moment with such negativity? Dwight firing her was the absolute best thing that could have happened to her.
She stared down at the half eaten sandwich before glancing up to Jim. “Tell him I don’t want it if he asks.” She responds, confidence in her voice.
Jim nodded, glancing away, but she doesn’t miss the smile that raised his cheeks. She knows he’s happy for her and loves him all the more for it.
She continued, “I don’t know exactly what I want to do, but I’ve thought of a few options. We can talk about them more at dinner tonight?” She sees him gathering his sandwich wrapper, the apple core, and a dirty napkin.
“Oh, of course! I can’t wait to hear more about it.” Jim stands, stretching tall and she feels eyes of the stay at home moms on her, envious of her catch.
Stepping towards him, wrapping her arms around his waist, she kisses his cheek lightly. “I love you” she murmurs against him.
“I love you more” he responds in her ear. They part ways and she drives back home, the windows down, blaring music through her speakers and feels divine for the first time in weeks.
The afternoon is spent deep cleaning her apartment and making up for the time she spent neglecting the chores that needed to have been completed days ago. Laundry that had piled up swishes in the washer and dishes that rested in her sink, are thoroughly rinsed before placed in her dishwasher.
All the while she considers what her new career can be. She has a degree in Art History with an emphasis in design. She thinks back to her time in college. She’d had a plan, but then Roy had convinced her life could be much better if she’d work at Dunder Mifflin with her instead. She didn’t fight with him and simply applied. It wasn’t the life she had wanted, but there weren’t too many openings in the field she’d studied in anyway. She figures now that Roy regrets asking her to apply (if he’s even considered it) because she wouldn’t have met Jim.
She vacuums and ponders what that life would have looked like and shudders at the thought of being someone's glorified mother.
As she begins her dusting, she makes a mental list of all the places she can check for jobs. She won’t be too picky, she just needs to get her foot in the door. However, if she can find the ideal job of designing art displays at museums or galleries, she’ll jump on it. She always thought there was a method and psychology to how art showcases were laid out. The thought that she could start working her dream job at 29, years after her teenage self expected this to happen, fills her with an emotion she hasn’t felt in so long: self-confidence and potential.
She continued to clean, listening to the top 40 pop hits through her earbuds, her Mp3/radio player in her back pocket. The thought that she can actively change her life motivates her in ways she can’t get enough of. She promises herself that tomorrow, first thing, she’ll start the job search. Thinking back to the morning, she’s still unsure what overcame her and put her in a good headspace again, but she doesn’t complain. Sometimes things just happen at the right time. Or her body was over sulking on the couch. Either way she’s back to feeling like Pam, or rather a Pam that doesn’t feel stuck.
It doesn’t take much longer to finish cleaning the apartment and she glanced down at her watch, checking the time. She wanted to cook a nice dinner for Jim. He’d put up with her the last few weeks (though he’d probably say “that’s my job”) and be all nice and sweet about it, but she recognized that she needed to acknowledge and thank him for it.
She pulled a pale blue dress out of her closet that she bought last spring at Macy’s and put it on. It cinched at her waist, had shorter sleeves that fluttered and flowed. It’s not a random dress she’s chosen for the occasion. It’s intentional. The last time she wore this dress, it ended up on the floor of her bedroom almost immediately. Jim had obviously loved it and she’d more than loved the outcome. She added some definition to her curls and added a bit more makeup than she had earlier. She wanted tonight to feel like a rebirth of her and make it special for her fiance. She’d been too down to officially celebrate their engagement and she planed to make that up to him tonight.
She moved quickly knowing that there wasn’t that much time left before Jim got off work and she was determined to look presentable and have dinner on the table before he was home. “Wow, already a housewife,” she laughed to herself, “My ancestors would be so proud of what they worked for”. Honestly though, she loved doing this for him because she knows he’d do the same for her.
Making her way into the kitchen, she checks to see that she had thirty minutes before he was due at her place and puts a pot of water to boil on the stove. She’s making his favorite meal, chicken alfredo with an Italian salad for tonight. Prepping the ingredients, she hummed along to the oldies station on her radio. It’s full of the classics and made for a romantic soundtrack.
Fifteen minutes before he was due home, she was placing the thinly sliced chicken in the oven. The pasta was boiling, well on its way, and she set off to make the salad. She grabbed the ingredients of mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, olives, and pepperoncinis. She made a quick vinaigrette and topped the salad with some grated parmesan. The fact that she had all the ingredients in her kitchen shocked her considering the state of mind she’s been in.
The candles haven't been used since she lost power a few months ago and sat with a thin layer of dust on her table. The warmth fills the room as the light flickers after they’re lit. She wished she had a dimmer in her kitchen lights, but decided to add a few more candles to the room...okay ten...so she has a problem. She wanted to eat by candlelight and really make it feel special. She quickly pondered how pre-electricity citizens would feel knowing this is considered romantic, but pushed that out her mind quickly as the timer dinged. Placing the glassware on the stove, draining the pot of pasta, and plating them all together with some canned alfredo sauce, she set the salad and dish on the table with two place settings.
Like clockwork, and she was truly impressed with herself, she heard the lock click open and Jim’s work bag thud softly by the front door as he shucked it off.
“Wow, what do you have g-” he stopped in the doorway to her kitchen and grinned at her.
She had outdown herself. The kitchen was lit up in candles that flickered in the darkened space, the aroma of their dinner circled the air, and the blue dress she wore outdid everything she had done for the last few weeks combined.
He crossed the room and gathered her in his arms, a near growl at her ear. “I love this dress” is the first thing he says in her ear before gripping her waist possessively, his pointer finger and thumb playing with the material between them.
Leaning back, she smirked at him, she could see the memory of the last time she wore this particular dress cross his mind and had a pretty good idea of where their night would lead after dinner.
In the meantime, she pulled back so they could sit down and enjoy their meal. The entire time, she ran her painted toes along his legs, sometimes slipping them under the pant leg. The shudder that moves through him doesn’t go unnoticed and she smiled into the plate of pasta, swirling the noodles on her fork.
They discussed her future job opportunities and like she had always suspected, he was incredibly supportive of her. When she brought up the dream job she’s always wanted, she paused because he gave her a look like he was in awe and when she asked him, “What?” He said just as she suspected, that he was in awe of her and she didn’t think she'd ever been more in love. She stood up slowly and moved to each candle individually, blowing them out, and never let her gaze leave his. She watched him swallow, his eyes connected with hers, but struggling not the watch the way her dress swung around her.
He caught her drift after the third candle and stood up himself, helping her blow the flames out until they met in the middle, standing together in the dark.
“Remember the last time you wore this dress?” He questions her again, his voice barely above a whisper. It’s an intimate moment they share there in the dark, She wondered how she got so lucky, but it hits her, it’s because she took a chance. That’s what this has always been about.
“I remember.” she responds, feeling his hands stroke up her side to her cheek and caress her gently. She kissed his palm after his thumb grazed her lower lip. He knew how to undo her every time.
He pulled his hand back, placing it back on her waist and leaned in to kiss her softly before she returned it a bit more intensely and he responded in kind.
It wasn’t long before the dress ended up on the floor again, but this time it was the kitchen. “Not a bad day” she thought to herself as they moved together. “Not a bad day.”