Jim yawned as he walked down the hallway toward the faculty lounge. It was around 5:30 p.m. which meant they had another hour and half before they could leave. It was parent teacher conferences at Edward Truck Memorial, which equated to 12 hours straight at the school. This year, however, they had changed the format of the conferences. Now, all the teachers had small desks set up five feet apart in the gymnasium and parents could come and go as they pleased, talking only to whichever teachers they felt necessary. That was great, in theory, but Jim was finding out that this new format attracted a…certain type of parent. Basically, his afternoon had been spent trying convince parents that their child had a low grade because he or she had to actually turn in assignments to get credit (and therefore a decent grade) and that he wasn't, in fact, "out to get them".
He walked to the nearest table in the faculty lounge and lifted the lid on a pizza box with a frown. Pizza by Alfredo. Michael must have been in charge of ordering food for the staff. He lifted up a slice, then dropped it back into the box. It was basically glorified cardboard with sauce on top. However, he knew he had a pregnant, hungry, hormonal (though he never used that word unless she did first) wife back in the gym, so crappy pizza would have to do. But he bought her a Snickers from the vending machine for good measure.
His phone buzzed in his pocket on the way back, so he shifted the plates he was holding to grab it and check his messages.
One New Message: Danny Cordray
Hey man, given any more thought to our offer? Let me know!
Jim put his phone back into his pocket. He had been home from the conference in Boston for a couple of days now, but every time he tried to bring it up with Pam, they were interrupted or he chickened out. He really had no reason to believe she wouldn't support him in taking the coaching job, but there was always a chance she would be hesitant and he had already realized he really wanted to take it. So by avoiding the subject, he delayed the possible disappointment.
He entered the bustling gymnasium and sat at his assigned desk. They had lined all the teachers up by last name, and lucky for Jim, he now shared his last name with Pam and therefore got to spend the day next to his wife, who was now deep in conversation with a student's mom. He could hear the words "rose ceremony" and "Jordan M." and "not the right reasons" and smiled to himself. She could make friends anywhere, especially if those friends watched The Bachelor.
Pam wrapped up her conversation and Jim placed the plate of pizza on her desk.
"I didn't realize The Bachelor was part of your curriculum now."
She took a bite. "Shut up." Then her face scrunched with disappointment. "This is Pizza by Alfredo, isn't it?" she said, gesturing toward her mouth.
"Sadly, yes. Which is why I bought you this too." He handed her the Snickers. "It has peanuts in it, so protein. Chocolate comes from a tree, so basically a vegetable. You're covered."
She grinned and rubbed a hand over her stomach. "We thank you."
Jim scanned the room. The number of parents had been steadily decreasing, so he took his chance.
"Hey," he said to her, clearing his throat. "I actually wanted to talk to about something. Remember at the conference how I told you I ran into some of the administrators from Hazelton?"
Pam nodded. "Oh yeah! We never finished that conversation. I was too eager to hear about the Michael trainwreck to remember to ask you about it. What did you talk about?"
Jim rubbed the back of his neck and began talking at double speed. "So, I guess they have an opening for head basketball coach. They saw how I turned the team here around last season and they were impressed and they kind of want me to take it? I know it's a commute after school every day to practice and I'll have to figure out a way to break it to Michael. But they said they would pay me, which would be helpful with the baby and everything…"
"Jim," she stopped him. He hadn't realized that he had been avoiding her gaze until she caught his attention, but now she was looking at him with a genuine smile spread on her face. "All I want--"
"Excuse me, Mr. Halpert?"
Jim turned around and was startled by a red haired woman standing extremely close to him.
"Hi! Did you need to meet with me?"
The woman nodded and stepped over to his desk, plopping herself down in the chair opposite him.
"Okay, what's the name of your child?" Jim started, filing through his class roles.
"Jake. Jake Palmer."
He wasn't sure how he didn't recognize her immediately, but flashbacks of awkward meetings like these flashed through his mind. Not only was her son easily the most difficult student he had ever taught, his mother usually smelled of booze and basically spoke in innuendos every time he had the "pleasure" of meeting with her.
"Ah, yes. What questions do you have for me, Mrs. Palmer?"
"It's Ms. Palmer to you, sweet cheeks," she said with a wink. "But you can call me Meredith."
Jim tried his best to keep his composure, even though he was positive he heard Pam spray bits of her Snickers bar while she tried to disguise a laugh.
She slouched back in her seat. "Yeah, I got a question. Why is Jakey failing your class?"
Jim stroked his beard with his hand. "Well...he's been suspended. Twice. And never did the make up for that. Plus, it looks like the only thing he has turned in is the paper on The Great Gatsby, which was a page too short and he referred to the character of Jay Gatsby as 'DiCaprio' multiple times."
He stared at her, willing his jaw to stay closed. "So…he needs to turn in his work to get points."
"Any way I could…persuade anyone to get those grades higher?" she said with a smirk.
Jim's eyes widened as he scrambled to find a paper. "You know what? Here's a list of all the assignments he's missed. Just have him turn them in for partial credit and we'll be good. Okay? Okay. Alright." He stood up quickly and held out his hand to shake hers. "Have a great night Ms. Palmer!"
She grabbed the paper with an eye roll and walked to the next teacher on her list.
Slowly, Jim lifted his head to look at Pam, who had her arms folded and head tilted, a look of wild amusement on her face that he wanted to kiss right off with how cute it was, despite what he had just undergone.
"Do I need to be worried, Mr. Halpert?" she joked with an eyebrow raise. "Seems I have some competition."
"First of all, ew," he said firmly. "Second of all," he inconspicuously pointed to the wall behind them. "See that wonky little 'firework' at the bottom of your mural? That should answer your question," he winked. "No competition. Ever."
After grabbing a good pizza from Alfredo’s Pizza Cafe, Jim pulled their car into a corner of the parking lot. The windshield fogged as he opened the box and he chuckled when he saw Pam’s eyes roll back as soon as the scent of mozzarella and warm crust hit her nose. She grabbed a piece and took a huge bite.
“This is burning my entire mouth,” she said through the pizza. “But I don’t even care. Let’s name our kid Alfredo.”
“Middle name: PizzaCafe.”
They each polished off a couple more slices before Jim put the rest of the pizza into the back seat. Pam shifted sideways and leaned her head back against the headrest.
Jim reached his hand over the console and rested it gently on her knee, then parroted her tone back to her.
“We didn’t get to finish talking about that coaching job.”
Jim looked down. “Yeah...listen, if you don’t want me to…”
She placed her hand on his and smiled. “I think you should take it.”
She shrugged, still smiling. “Yeah! Hazleton is not that far away. We’ll still see each other at home and at school. And the season only goes until February...March at the latest. Plus, you love coaching and you said they would pay you at Hazelton? That seems like a pretty good deal.”
He felt the relief course through him. How could he have thought she wouldn’t want this for him? She’s never been anything but supportive.
“Well, then. Okay!” he laughed. “I guess we’re doing this. I’ll call Danny when we get home.”
Pam grinned and reached back to grab the pizza box, taking another slice. "One more. For the kid."
Jim tossed his keys on the entry table as they walked into the house and turned on the lamp.
“I’m just going to put the pizza in the fridge, give Danny a quick call, and then I’ll be up,” he called after her as she headed up the stairs toward their bedroom.
As he shut the refrigerator door, he pulled out his phone and pulled up Danny’s number. He paced as it rang once, then twice, then finally he walked into the next room and sat on the couch.
“Hey! Danny! Sorry for the late call, we had parent teacher conferences tonight.”
“Ah, yes, I know how those things go. Any crazies tonight?"
“Just a few,” he chuckled into the phone. He glanced upward and saw Pam come down the stairs. She had let her hair down and was wearing nothing but one of his blue button down dress shirts. It hit her right at her upper thigh, revealing plenty, but still not enough.
“So, Jim. Given any more thought to the job?"
Pam gave him an evil smirk as she walked slowly toward him. Suddenly he forgot how to arrange letters into words and words into sentences.
“Uh...yeah, um. Yes. I...have.” He cleared his throat. “I have given it some thought.”
Pam straddled his lap, nestling her knees against his hips, and brought her mouth under his left ear, causing him to nearly drop the phone that was against his right right one. He swallowed hard and slammed his eyes shut.
"I...I'm really interested in...doing it...uh taking it. The job."
Pam began kissing down his neck while blindly untucking his shirt and undoing his belt buckle with ease. His eyes rolled back as he ran his free hands up her bare thigh.
"That's great!! I'll call you Monday and we can talk more details. Can't wait to have you as part of the team."
Pam's hand ventured further down and Jim's voice nearly shot up an octave.
"Yep! I'm really excited too."
Pam gave a slight squeeze and whispered, "Yeah you are..." in his ear.
"Okay, thanks Jim! Talk to you soon."
"Bye! Thank you!" he said hurriedly, scrambling to find the "end" button. He successfully hung up, threw his phone across the room, and flipped Pam onto her back in one swift motion.
"That wasn't very nice," he said against her smiling lips.
"I could stop," she teased.
He shook his head, brushing his nose against hers.
"Please don't ever stop."
Chapter End Notes:
Hopefully this chapter wasn't a hot circle of garbage.